What would you be willing to do to be successful? The television presenter Jack Delroy, fallen from grace, is clear: contact the devil live in a very special program, on Halloween night 1977. This is how the latest film by the filmmaking duo made up of brothers Cameron and Colin begins. Cairnes. You can imagine that the program does not end well and that contacting the devil live cannot bring anything good, but behind the scenes we reflect on the ambition, sects and demons of a society willing to do anything for a minute of success. and a lot of audience.

The horror film starring David Dastmalchian has been praised and awarded wherever it has gone – winner of the Best Screenplay award at the Sitges Film Festival – leaving behind the promise of being one of the best horror films of the year, or at least that is what the writer Stephen King has proclaimed, who has described it as “absolutely brilliant.” The directors and scriptwriters of The Last Late Night, which hits Spanish screens this Friday, have spoken with La Vanguardia by video call from Australia about the film and its particular terrors. 

Where did the idea for the film come from, when it started to catch fire?

Cameron Cairnes: Burning is a good word. It was a slow burn just like the movie. The germ of the idea emerged about 10 years ago. It took us many drafts. We had just finished our first feature film, a low budget one, and our producer wanted to shoot another one directly. We knew we wouldn’t have much money so we had to act smart. We started by thinking about a location where we could easily contain the entire story, the TV set was our best asset. Marrying television with the horror genre inspired us for the rest of the story.

Why did you choose the 70s?

Colin Cairnes: At that time in the United States there was a great satanic psychosis, the Satanic panic. Everyone thought rock and roll was evil and American youth were joining the ranks of the evil. Thanks to that panic we have films like The Exorcist (1973), The Prophecy (1976) or The Devil’s Seed (1968). We love movies from that era, regardless of genre. We loved seventies music. We thought that would give it a special flavor.

And that’s when your protagonist’s TV show Night Owls appears…

Colin Cairnes: Exactly. In the shows back then, you could say whatever you wanted, they were much less scripted, less staged than those of today. So they were much freer.  And again, that was exciting for us. You could have these characters who could say what they thought, they could argue freely on camera without caring about people’s reaction. 

Were you inspired by any specific program?

Colin Cairnes: When we were kids we watched a late night talk show host called Don Lane who stuck in our memories. We stayed up late to see Lane and his special guests, occultists and ghost hunters. Uri Geller, the famous spoon bender illusionist; Doris Stokes, the clairvoyant, or James Randi, the famous debunker. Lane’s paranormal show had a big influence on us. It’s hard to see that freedom from Lane in today’s shows.

In the middle of the streaming era, high definition, 4k… why do you think found footage is used so much in the genre? Why is it so scary?

Colin Cairnes: Because there’s something truthful about found footage, like it’s happening here and now. When we think of found footage, I think we always think of shaky cam and a very exaggerated atmosphere, whereas our world is very stable. We wanted to give the technique a twist with slower camera movements and zooms, the world in general seems brightly lit and with banality in it.

Cameron Cairnes: Yeah, we didn’t have to find an excuse to keep the cameras rolling. I think that’s the problem a lot of people have with found footage, “why are you still filming this? You should get the hell out,” you think. But in our film everything is a television show, the cameras keep rolling. Paranormal things happen and no one wonders why it is being filmed because the set justifies it. So it was perfect for us. 

Colin Cairnes: We didn’t set out to make a found footage film. We just wanted to tell a good story linked to a good horror movie. That seemed like the best way to tell the story. 

How is fear created and what was it like to roll with the devil?

Colin Cairnes: Sound design, it plays a huge role. Our sound designer, Emma Bortignon, is a legend, the best in Australia, she did Talk To Me (2022). We worked hard to make the space look very real. Also a little exaggerated when necessary. We take care of every possible detail to create the atmosphere, from someone clearing their throat to something falling backstage to generate constant tension. We didn’t want big scares, we wanted constant tension. 

Why David Dastmalchian for the lead role? 

Colin Cairnes: We knew his work in big studio films playing smaller roles, but always absolutely convincing in his roles. We discovered that he had a love for the genre, going so far as to write articles for Fangoria, where I met him. There was something about his look and voice that just worked perfectly. There’s something very ’70s about David’s face and his acting style. So yes, he was the perfect man for the job. He couldn’t have been anyone else.

The character that portrays ambition, ego and willingness to sacrifice to achieve success, why relate him to the devil?

Colin Cairnes: Purity is related to religion, altruism, selflessness, but when it comes to the devil we talk about the other side of the coin with the number one on it. This relationship dates back to the Faustian bargain, as old as time. However, we have tried not to represent it in an obvious way and hide it behind the scenes. We do not consider our protagonist as apathetic or immoral. In fact, he is very empathetic and that is why he succeeds in his job as a presenter. 

Were they superstitious when rolling with the devil? Were they afraid of ending up cursed like with the filming of Poltergeist (1982)?

Colin Cairnes: More than Satan, we were afraid of Covid. We filmed a couple of years ago when it was still a big deal. If someone got sick, it was a real worry since it was a low-budget film, we couldn’t afford to stop.

Cameron Cairnes: A few days into filming, two actors from our main cast fell ill. We had to fight like crazy to change the cast. Now that was terrifying.

And now, what are the Cairnes brothers afraid of?

Cameron Cairnes: I can’t handle rodents, I hate vermin of any kind. My worst fear is being buried alive with rats crawling on me. I know it sounds very Edgar Allan Poe, but that’s how it is. 

Do we rule out a future mouse horror movie?

Cameron Cairnes: Without a doubt.

And you, Colin, what are you afraid of?

Colin Cairnes: I don’t have phobias like my brother, as far as I know. But it does scare me who is going to be president of the United States in six months. I don’t scare easily, I have to say. We’ve been through a lot over the years, and I can proudly say that I’m not afraid.