‘Late Night With The Devil’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Did Abraxas Really Possess Lilly?


The latest supernatural horror thriller film on Shudder, Late Night with the Devil is built on a rather unusual and unique concept, implementing the general rules of demonic possession films inside a TV studio space. The plot is centered around Jack Delroy, a popular TV presenter with his own late-night show, named Night Owls with Jack Delroy, as he invites a group of people associated with paranormal activities in an attempt to boost viewership ratings. Although Late Night with the Devil arguably cannot live up to its potential by the end, it still makes for an interesting and spooky watch.

Spoiler Alert

What is the film about?

Late Night with the Devil follows a documentary found-footage style approach throughout its plot, and so its opening also gives an apt introduction to television in the 1970s, when the film is set. The political and social scenario in the United States was rather tumultuous in the 1970s, with growing insecurity and a very real phenomenon known as the Satanic panic. With a steady increase in the number of cults and groups that claimed to worship the Devil and the occult, society was also largely starting to believe in the supernatural in such strange forms. But along with all this, the popularity of television programs, especially late-night talk shows, was also on the rise, and our protagonist, Jack Delroy, is the host of one such successful show. With a variety of content, ranging from comedy to satire to serious discussions, The Night Owls with Jack Delroy became quite famous within a few years of its launch. Signing a major deal with the channel network UBC and even receiving an Emmy nomination for his work, Jack was seen as an entertaining figure keeping the minds of his audiences away from the scares and drudgeries of everyday life.

The personal life of Jack Delroy also became of interest to the public, most notably because he was a member of a secretive and closed men’s only group in California known as the Grove. While the presenter never spoke on this matter, he was much more open about his romantic life, as his lover and wife, Madeleine, was always seen by his side. However, tragedy struck on this very side, as Madeleine suddenly contracted lung cancer one day despite not being a smoker. Since their lives were already so public, Jack even brought his struggling wife to his show, and the episode was naturally the most-watched one in the entire show’s history. About a month later, Madeleine passed away from the painful effects of the cancer, and Jack Delroy was publicly distraught. Taking some time off television, the man finally returned in 1977 with the sixth season of the Night Owls program.

As the pressure of the producers and sponsors mounts on Jack, he tries various ways to bring back the old viewing figures and reach the top of the charts in his segment. When none of it works and Sweeps Week, the official week that determines the positions of various shows on the viewership charts, he comes up with a different plan based on his show’s annual Halloween special episodes. Since Halloween has also arrived, requiring some fresh ideas for the episodes, Jack decides to base it on the supernatural and bring individuals related to it in some way or another. However, this episode turns out to be extremely different than planned, and Late Night with the Devil tells that very tale in the form of old tapes of the incident found at the UBC studio.

How does Christou die?

Jack Delroy’s much-anticipated episode on the occult begins with a psychic named Christou, who is the first to walk out onto the stage. Like any other psychic, Christou’s intention is to impress the audience by guessing pieces of information about them that he is not supposed to know. He begins by calling out a name that he is apparently getting from the spirit world and asking if anyone in the audience is related to the name. When a man in the viewer’s gallery stands up and mocks the performer, Jack does not mind much, for it is all part of the act. Since the Night Owls show is not rooted in the subject of the paranormal, it does not directly get to it and presents the events in a way that can be seen as coincidence or fake psychics getting caught in the act as well.

Very soon, Christou’s performance gets serious when he walks up to two women in the gallery, a mother and daughter, and tells them a name, which immediately shocks them. The name happens to be of a man in their family, the son, and brother of the woman, respectively, who had died at a very young age in the past. Christou claims to give the women a message from the dead man and impresses the crowds with his seemingly supernatural powers. Although he was supposed to stop at this stage, the psychic continues to perform his acts, now calling out the name Minnie and asking if anyone can relate to it. While the crowd, or anyone else in the studio, does not respond, Jack’s face can be seen expressing a bit of discomfort hearing the name.

After Christou sits down to continue being a member throughout the episode, the next man on the stage is Carmichael, a magician and renowned skeptic whose claim to fame is his ability to debunk supernatural theories and acts. It is through Carmichael’s investigation that we get to know that at least some of Christou’s actions on the stage were fake and staged. The names that the psychic had thrown around were all pre-decided, and the two women whom he had told about their loved one were actually questioned about this loss earlier. In reality, every member of the audience had been asked to fill out a form before entering the studio, in which they had to mention whether they had lost any loved ones, as well as details about them. Therefore, Christou had actually known the dead man’s name and his relationship with his family members from before, making his performance a mere stage act.

However, Christou calls out Minnie’s name, and his strange behavior after that moment is indeed tied to the supernatural. Christou was actually receiving messages and orders from the other demonic presence, which was already present in the studio at the time, even though it had not been up on the stage yet. The name Minnie was actually the private nickname of Jack’s late wife Madeleine, and this connection makes it all the more apparent that he actually did have the ability to be a medium. The demon in Late Night with the Devil is incredibly powerful, and so it had taken control over Christou, making him fall sick and having to be rushed to the hospital. But the effect is such that the man dies on the way after having coughed up blood from his mouth dangerously. Jack naturally hides the news of Christou’s death from the audience and the other guests, but he, too, is evidently surprised by the strange occurrence.

Is Carmichael genuine about his claims?

Carmichael the Conjurer, the second guest on Jack’s episode, is on the exact opposite end of the spectrum, as he is a staunch believer in the science and creativity of humans, with complete disregard for the supernatural. He claims to have even gathered a team, the purpose of which is to go around and debunk cases of paranormal activities, and he has grown rather boastful of his ability to catch such pretensions with ease. Throughout the film’s duration, he questions the events taking place right in front of everyone’s eyes and constantly tries to prove that all of it is fake and staged. When Christou acts erratically, Carmichael questions the psychic’s mental and physical health, even though he is stunned to learn of his death towards the end of the film. After Lilly’s first demonic possession on the stage, the skeptic refuses to believe it, too, stating that it was all tricks of the mind and the camera.

When asked to prove his claims, Carmichael does indeed successfully prove the powers of his hypnosis, which he performs on Jack’s assistant, Gus, on the others on the stage, and also on the audience members. After first using his tricks to hypnotize everyone, Carmichael verbally controls what happens with Gus and what everyone else sees, too. He makes Gus believe that worms are crawling out of his skin, making the man try to rip through his own body, and he makes everyone else at the place believe that they are seeing such a gory sight on the stage. Interestingly, the audience members on the other side of the screen, meaning us, the viewers of the film, also witness the same events, as if hypnotized by Carmichael’s brilliant abilities. But all of it turns out to be just imagination when the man breaks the hypnosis and the footage is rechecked. 

Moments like these make Late Night with the Devil seem more interested in entertaining its viewers than always being logical or comprehensive, since Carmichael’s abilities should not technically have hypnotized us too. Instead, the film wants to enjoyably bring back the strange and outlandish claims made by psychics and similar practitioners in the 1970s, many of which actually found a place on television as well. After all, every one of the guests is a performer who uses tricks to earn a living out of the paranormal, and Carmichael’s position is to play the stereotypical role of the skeptic. This is why he is so boastful in his claims and even carries around a check for 500,000 dollars, stating that he would give it to anyone who would be able to convince him about the presence of the supernatural.

Is Lilly Really Possessed By A Demon?

While the previous two guests on Jack’s show can still be passed off as fake scamsters who are simply taking advantage of the growing fear of the paranormal, the emergence of June and Lilly changes the situation. It is now that Late Night with the Devil actually turns out to be a supernatural film, with no doubt about the existence of ghosts and demons. Lilly is a young girl in her teenage years who has a grim and sad backstory, too, as she was rescued from a deadly cult. Some years earlier, a cult calling themselves the First Church of Abraxis had started gaining popularity in parts of America, and their whole appeal was to see the Satanic Abraxas as the lord and owner of the world. The cult’s leader, Szandor D’Abo, gradually started getting into extremely shocking and illegal acts, such as making human sacrifices and breeding children solely for sacrifice. As the law closed in on the cult, D’Abo launched an attack on them before leading a mass suicide. However, one young girl, about eight, was rescued alive from the place, and this happens to be Lilly.

After her rescue, Lilly was taken in by a parapsychologist named June Ross-Mitchell, who cared for the girl almost like a mother and also kept her safe from a supposed demon inside her through regular conjuring sessions. June had also recently written a book on Lilly’s strange condition, and it was in order to promote this book that she came to Jack’s show, bringing the girl along with her. In this regard, it is easy to brand June as an impersonator, too, for there is no proof of her having any supernatural abilities to communicate with spirits. Lilly, on the other hand, is indeed haunted by a demonic spirit inside her, and so everything that happens with regards to her on stage is very real. The spirit is initially referred to as Mr. Wiggles, and its effects are devastating, making young Lilly’s appearance change and even making her levitate in the air as well. At the end of the film, though, Mr. Wiggles comes out in its strongest form, as Lilly’s face splits up and reveals the face of the Devil, which yields enormous power and kills everyone on the stage, except for Jack.

Had Jack Delroy killed his own wife?

Late Night with the Devil‘s ending revealed the truth, even though the film becomes quite confusing in its presentation, bringing it all together through a hallucination suffered by the protagonist TV presenter. It all goes back to the fact that Jack was a member of the secretive men’s club, the Grove, which also had many powerful industrialists, politicians, and businessmen as members. In reality, the Grove was actually a Satan-worshiping cult as well, and was also closely connected with D’Abo’s cult. When Jack Delroy started experiencing professional success in life, he wanted to be at the very top and started competing with fellow night-talk show host Johnny Carson (who was a real iconic TV host in the 1970s). This competition did not go very well for Jack, as he could never touch Carson’s viewership figures, and this made him desperate to try out different means.

It was then that Jack participated in some sort of Satanic ritual as part of the Grove group, and it was then that the demon, referred to as Mr. Wiggles, first came across him. The demon actually states so through the mouth of Lilly, saying that it had met Jack among the tall trees, referring to the meeting place of the Grove inside a California forest. Essentially, the protagonist had made a deal with the Devil to ensure his success and the sacrifice he had to make for it was his most beloved connection—his wife, Madeleine. This was why the woman had been diagnosed with lung cancer in an almost impossible manner and then died within a few months. Jack’s first attempt to make use of this sacrifice came in a very direct form when he tried to boost his viewership by bringing the sick Madeleine to his show. But his plan had not worked out, and it is now the ghost of Madeleine who keeps appearing to Jack during the Halloween episode shoot. 

Although Jack thought that he could use the Devil for his personal benefit, he has been played by the evil entity and finds himself in great trouble at present. In his hallucination, Jack revisits the moment when he stabbed Madeleine with a dagger in order to ease her pain and let her rest in peace. Thus, Jack Delroy had indeed killed his own wife, both literally and metaphorically, since Madeleine got the cancer and was therefore restless to die, only because of his occult practices. At this same time, outside of the hallucination, Jack actually stabs Lilly to death on the stage, possibly because the Devil makes him do so. Or perhaps there are stronger and more evil spirits in possession of the Grove who now want to ensure that their name is no longer linked with such matters and pin all the blame on Jack. Since the normal logical world would not believe in any of this, the police are heard rushing to the TV studio, and it is clear that they would arrest Jack Delroy for the murder of Lilly. 

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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