When movies and television try to incorporate modern conveniences into their stories, the end result usually winds up feeling more than a little bit condescending, if not entirely misguided. With few exceptions, the portrayal of internet and cellphone culture in Hollywood is less than accurate, and many filmmakers actively shy away from utilizing these elements into their plots entirely. However, Abel and Burlee Vang are more than willing to deal with these ideas in their latest technological/supernatural thriller, Bedeviled.
Bedeviled stars Saxon Sharbino, Mitchell Edwards, Brandon Soo Hoo, Victory Van Tuyl, Alexis G. Zall, Jordan Essoe (as Mr. Bedevil) and a few others as an ensemble cast of high schoolers united by the mysterious suicide of a teenage friend. Things take a turn for the worst when the mourning teenagers begin to receive invitations from their dead friend’s account, inciting them into downloading a peculiar app. While the “Mister Bedevil” initially seems to be just a harmless piece of programming wizardry, it eventually manifests itself in the real world in horrifying, life-threatening ways.
Taking cues from other teen horror flicks like The Ring and Final Destination (not to mention Stephen King’s It, as the app begins to bring the user’s worst fears into reality), the plot here is standard enough once you move away from the curious premise. Despite a few genuinely clever ideas, the movie finds itself constantly tripping over the usual narrative tropes, though the Vangs execute everything well enough that this doesn’t become all that distracting. The real backbone of the film is actually the well-defined cast of characters, making it hard to dislike the feature, even with some predictable moments here and there.
Bedeviled‘s teenagers are, for the most part, far removed from the usual body-count-inflating generic high schoolers that populate many horror movies. The characters and their relationships feel extremely believable, with some of them even defying certain racist/sexist tropes that are all too commonplace in the genre. Mitchell Edward’s performance as Cody is a great example of this, subverting quite a few “token black character” clichés, though his dialogue can sometimes seem a bit too on the nose.
All in all, Bedeviled isn’t really the technologically focused horror-thriller that the marketing might lead you to believe it is, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What we have here is a charming, albeit occasionally predictable, character-driven horror movie with a splash of modern sensibilities. While some of the scenes involving the titular app’s capabilities may seem cheesy at first, especially with how gullible the teens seem to be, there are still some honest scares to be had with the film. In fact, it could be said that Bedeviled gives a new meaning to the term “killer app”.
Bedeviled screened at the Screamfest Horror Film Festival.