Overlook Film Festival – Late Night With the Devil and The Wrath of Becky

Overlook Film Festival – Late Night With the Devil and The Wrath of Becky

Late Night With the Devil (dir.- Cameron Cairnes, Colin Cairnes)


The film I was most excited to see at Overlook was not only the first one I managed to catch, it was also, for my money, the best of the fest. This isn’t to say that Overlook Film Fest wasn’t bubbling over with total bangers, just that Late Night With the Devil is a grand slam work of innovative, engaging horror. The framing device, that of a late night talk show’s master tape, offers a level of novelty that, while clever and fun, does not distract from the remarkably strong storytelling on display. In fact, it’s the perfect vessel for the goals of the filmmakers.

David Dastmalchian plays Jack Delroy, a 1970s television personality whose late night talk show show, Night Owls, is vying for a spot on the charts near or above Johnny Carson. After a handful of personal setbacks, everything is on the line for tonight’s very special event: The Night Owls Halloween Special. On the guest list is a Uri Gellar-esque mentalist, an Amazing Randi-esque skeptic, and a young woman who survived a satanic cult. It should make for a night spooky fun, but before long, something expressly supernatural has been conjured, and Delroy, hungry for ratings, works double time to keep everything on the rails.

Shades of Ghostwatch and Network abound, as the camera exposes the dark underbelly of a hungry production, as well as the overworked players bound to be driven mad by even its most pedestrian machinations. Dastmalchian shines with a verisimilitude that matches the entire production. Night Owls feels 100% real, even as what we see dips into abstraction. Kudos to 100 Bloody Acres filmmakers Cameron and Colin Cairnes, as their commitment to the bit is unmatched — nary a wink or nod, despite a wealth of character-based dark humor. Vigilant viewers will find hidden images in the periphery that had this particular critic pining for a rewind button. Here’s hoping there’s a physical release on the horizon.

The Wrath of Becky (dir.- Matt Angel, Suzanne Coote)

10 Cloverfield Lane, The Return to Oz, — there are no shortage of sequels that take a big departure from their predecessor to create something that, while using borrowed parts, is wholly its own thing. Add The Wrath of Becky to that list. It’s a follow up to the 2020 thriller Becky, in which a group of white supremacists attack a vacationing family, only to find themselves on the wrong end of the titular character’s bloody vengeance. As the credits roll (spoiler alert), Becky is, to put it mildly, quite traumatized by her recent experiences. Moreover, she’s discovered that she has quite the knack, and some may argue, the taste, for dishing out violent justice.

The Wrath of Becky picks up not long after the first film ends. In it we find Becky, now 16, moving from foster home to foster home with her beloved dog, doing her best to stay off the radar and fend for herself. She finally settles down with an older roommate who is content not to ask any questions, just so long as Becky continues to pay her rent. As if Becky is a magnet for such things, a group of extremists who call themselves the Noble Men (do I need to explain the real-world analog?) are prepping for a rally in her town, and when a trio of these losers cross our hero in a very bad way, she takes it upon herself to once again get bloody revenge. And boy does she.

This excessively violent sequel is an improvement in every way over the solid, albeit forgettable first film. By removing the family element that felt a bit undercooked, and actually utilizing the characterizations of the villains, Wrath feels simultaneously more freewheeling AND thematically stronger than its forbear. Whereas Becky had its white supremacist baddies wholly ignoring the interracial aspect of the marriage they destroy, ultimately giving the film a “first draft” feel, Wrath fully utilizes the “men are being culturally emasculated” mentality of its villains. As a result, these antagonists are as pathetic as they are scary, which makes a great basis upon which to tear them limb from limb.

Becky is again played by Lulu Wilson, and her portrayal feels like a natural development for the character. A less able performer could potentially stumble in making Becky as likable as she is (let’s face it, she’s a dangerous and unwell human being), but Wilson finds a delicious gray area in which to operate. Yet hers is not the defining performance of the film. That honor goes to the always excellent, criminally underrated Seann William Scott.

Here he plays Darryl, the charismatic leader of the fascist group of attackers. He swings from firm and supportive toward his underlings to unhinged and flailing in response to Becky’s attacks. It’s a wide gamut of expression that could easily dip into cartoon territory if not managed with such skill. That’s not the case here, and that tonal management is reflected throughout the entire film. The Wrath of Becky delivers on strong thematic and character work, while also providing no shortage of splattery, cathartic violence to boot. Very well done. Who doesn’t like seeing fascist losers get got?

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