UK Release Date: 17th September 2018
Runtime: 98 minutes
Director: Abel Vang, Burlee Vang
Writer: Abel Vang, Burlee Vang
Starring: Saxon Sharbino, Mitchell Edwards, Carson Boatman, Victory Van Tuyl, Brandon Soo Hoo, Jordan Essoe
Synopsis: A group of teens are menaced by a smartphone app that feeds on their fear before ultimately trying to kill them off, one by one.
As the third act of the new smartphone-based horror movie Bedeviled kicks into gear, one character turns to another and calmly states that “this is a perfect setup for a bad horror movie”, as if writing the first line of critics’ reviews for them. Unfortunately, Bedeviled is a long way from being even a bad horror movie. Debutant writer-directors The Vang Brothers have delivered a film that’s just, above all else, a little bit bland. It cribs from genre classics new and old, without as much as a single original idea in its head.
With that said, the premise has some degree of potential. After the death of one of their buddies, a group of teenage friends each receives an invite from their departed pal to a mysterious app called ‘Mr Bedeviled’. If that sounds to you like the sort of app no one should ever download, then you’re applying real world logic to a horror film and should probably stop. These kids, of course, go ahead and download the app, which is a Siri-like AI that initially seems helpful, but soon becomes sinister. “This app, it knows us,” says one character to another, foreshadowing a selection of tailor-made scares designed to upset each of the friends, before killing them off.
That sounds a lot like the premise of It, but with added touch screens. And if you hadn’t already come to that realisation when watching the first hour of the movie, the Vangs make sure you make the comparison by including a parade of clowns wielding red balloons. But their naked horror rip-offs continue, delivering a long-haired Asian spirit with a very Ringu-esque backstory and a creepy-looking stuffed bear who could have walked straight out of Five Nights at Freddy’s. It’s as if these filmmakers are determined to make you remember better movies.
And that feeds into the central villain too, who delivers one-liners like Freddy Krueger and visually appears like Slender Man meshed with the Joker. He’s realised via incredibly ropey make-up and CGI, which consistently mars the second half of the film, after a first act that sketches the relationship between the teens quite nicely and illustrates their connection with technology with some subtlety. They think nothing of talking to an app and are savvy in their approach to dealing with the threat, before they realise it might be a supernatural event. There’s plenty of discussion of firmware, antivirus techniques and covering your tracks online.
As much as it features some solid interplay between the characters – and Saxon Sharbino does a pretty decent job in the leading role – Bedeviled completely falls flat whenever it attempts to scare the audience. There’s no ingenuity to the route one jump scares and very little in the way of tension, as it hobbles through its generic slasher plot. In an era of genuinely excellent horror movies – including plenty that use technology to create real scares – this one feels a little bit of a waste of time.
Pop or Poop?
Can you imagine a movie that steals its every element from other, better horror films and then slaps a bare bones technology-based concept on the top of it in an attempt to reach for zeitgeisty buzz? Imagine no more, because Bedeviled is that movie – and it’s rubbish.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Bedeviled is available on VOD platforms in the UK from Monday.