By Anthony O’Connor

“We just got back from LA two days ago, and went right into the maelstrom of Australian press after doing the same thing in the US, which was intense,” says Cameron Cairnes. “It’s been a roller coaster ride, frankly, the last two weeks, and we’re bugging.”

Cameron Cairnes and his brother, Colin Cairnes, are bugging with very good reason. After making a splash with all the right people – namely those holding the purse strings, and those fans that really know their stuff when it comes to genre filmmaking – with their first two horror films, Cameron and Colin Cairnes have now taken the next step up the ladder. While 2012’s gut-busting gory black comedy 100 Bloody Acres and 2016’s media-savvy Scare Campaign showcased the writing/directing brothers’ sense of humour and willingness to subvert genre expectations, their new film, Late Night With The Devil, is near-epic in comparison.

Boasting note-perfect 1970s period detail, fascinatingly flawed characters, a great premise, and a flair-filled showcase for noted character actor David Dastmalchian (The Suicide Squad, Dune, Ant-Man), Late Night With The Devil truly establishes Cameron and Colin Cairnes as major new players on the horror scene. Shot in Australia, this very American found-footage tale focuses on struggling 1970s late night US talk show host Jack Delroy (Dastmalchian), who courts danger by staging an all-in Halloween TV special complete with a potentially dangerous guest: the sole survivor of a Satanic cult’s mass suicide. To say that things eventually get out of hand would be an understatement…

David Dastmalchian in Late Night With The Devil

Can you talk about casting David Dastmalchian as Jack Delroy?

Cameron Cairnes: “We’d gone through all of these pie-in-the-sky, A-list names, which were never going to happen. But we knew that it was about just getting the right actor for Jack Delroy. It was all about Jack, the host of the show. And my dear brother here was the one who hit upon the idea of Mr. Dastmalchian, knowing what a fan he was of horror, and how great an actor he was just in these little small parts in big movies. So to us, it seemed like a no-brainer. And then we pitched the idea to the producers, and they got it straight away. A week later, we’re zooming with David and he’s saying how much he loves the project. It all happened really quickly once that we’d had that connection. It’s incredible.”

So much of the film depends on whether we like him and whether we’re with him, and it’s such an unusual role for him…he’s just fantastic.

Colin Cairnes: “It’s a high wire act. We were just in awe of him every day. He’s got to run the gamut of emotions. He’s got to be the light and frothy TV host. He’s got to be able to pull off the banter with his guests and his sidekick and deliver the quips, but he also has to go to those dark places and he’s got to mine his own personal history. It was just so awesome watching him every day…the layers and the nuance to that character. Every day was a revelation.”

Cameron Cairnes: “And it was wonderful for the other cast members, all of whom are great, though it’s not a case of everyone lifting to his level. They’re already fantastic, and the script was in a good place when we got it out to people. People enjoyed the writing. But yeah, there were moments when David would do a take and we’d all just be in stunned silence for a minute. We’d call cut and we’d just be looking at it and go, ‘Oh my God, that’s so fucking good.’ And then we’d do another take and then another one. But they were all like that. It was like we were putting on a play every day. We’re doing another ten or twelve pages of this play. It was quite special.”

David Dastmalchian

How was it as a shoot? Low budget horror shoots can be hard…

Colin Cairnes: “Well, the first two films were very much location based, and we were moving around a lot. We were out in the elements, and we were weather dependent. Being in a studio for 20 days with Late Night With The Devil was actually very freeing. We hadn’t shot in a studio on a sound stage before, so it was just like we were producing our own late night talk show for real. We were stepping onto that set every day. It did get a little bit maddening after a while, a bit Groundhog Day…the world we had created in the writing was now there in real life and everyone bought into it. It just made it so much easier. And once everyone’s in costume, once the band strikes up, you feel like you’ve been transported back to 1977.”

A scene from Late Night With The Devil

I really felt like the structure of how you escalated was incredibly clever. You realise quite a lot in that climax. Did you know you just had to bring it all at that stage? That that was going to be the big payoff?

Cameron Cairnes: “Yeah, it was challenging, and we’d only settled on the nature of it. We’d written this kind of weird Lovecraft-style creature that comes to life, and there was no way we were going to pull off whatever we’d written on our budget. So yeah, the way it goes was quite a last-minute decision and fortunately it seems to have worked. We could shoot the drama quickly. We were running three cameras, and we were shooting it as if it were an actual show. We could get through ten or twelve pages… sometimes we got through even more.”

Colin Cairnes: “That bought us time as well to get the other stuff meant for the climax, where there’s a shitload going on. It was planned to within an inch of its life. We needed four days to just focus on that. That really was just setting up, getting the shot, and going very methodically through it. Whereas the rest of it had been pretty loosey goosey. Let’s just run the scene and shoot it in a bunch of ways and see what happens.

Cameron Cairnes: “We had to shoot that whole climax sequence in order because of the continuity aspect of it all. So, it was crazy. And then post-production and all those elements… there were so many little shots. I’m not saying it’s the shower scene from Psycho, but it felt like that just taking so many little shots and putting them together to make this story, which I think in the grand scheme of things, there’s maybe two minutes of screen time or something like that. It’s like three or four days of shooting and picking your little moments. It was exacting.”

The Cairnes Brothers with David Dastmalchian

The film has been a hit, and you guys are the toast of the town. Do you have any plans to continue this story? What’s on the agenda for the future?

Colin Cairnes: “Who knows? We’ve been asked if there is more to the Late Night With The Devil universe, and we’d be lying if we said we hadn’t thought about it. There’s potential to go back in time or jump ahead a decade or whatever it might be. So, we are having those discussions, but we’ve not written anything. We’ve also got a bunch of other ideas and we’ve got reps in LA now and something’s going to happen. I dunno what that is. We’ve got a couple of dream projects. We wrote a script last year that we really like, but it’s much bigger in scale. Period. Seventies is period, but this is going back, it might not be the right time for it, but that’s one we’d definitely like to make. Watch this space. We’re excited about the possibilities.”

Late Night With The Devil is in cinemas now. Click here for our review.