Each entry into the slasher genre relies entirely upon its monstrous (and instantly recognisable) killer to terrify its audience. Whether it’s Freddy, Jason, or Michael Myers the audience needs an iconic figure to attach their fear to. Something which the Vang brothers don’t seem to have quite grasped in their latest horror Bedeviled. A film which brings the genre uncomfortably into the modern day by asking, what if the killer was in our phones? Sound like a hackneyed premise? Oh, it is.
The basic story follows a group of relatable/massively annoying high school seniors who receive an invitation to download an app called Mr B from their friend Nikki (Alexis G. Zall), but here’s the twist, after she died! Naturally they think nothing of this and accept the invitation, welcoming Mr Bedevil (Jordan Essoe) into their lives. Mr B is a piece of software similar to Siri, only with an edgy and off kilter persona, displayed through its frank discussions surrounding sex etc with its adolescent users. However, it soon turns out the app is always listening into user’s conversations (topical), unfortunate as this group loves nothing more than discussing their worst fears constantly.
What follows after this is a series of scenes that owe a lot to the Nightmare on Elm Street series, as Mr B tries his best Freddy impression by morphing into the embodiment of these fears. Yet, it nails essentially none of these scenes, as for the most part Mr B just gets up in his victim’s face then vanishes. There’s only one sequence involving Mitchell Edward’s character Cody, where he is stalked through a parking complex by Mr B in a policeman’s uniform that manages to sustain any terror. And this is mainly due to some very competent lighting work and dynamic camera angles that creates a visceral terror that is absent from the rest of the film.
Primarily Bedeviled’s biggest downfall is that the directors don’t seemingly know how to structure a horror film effectively. The first half is a mess of constant jump scares that don’t frighten but rather exhaust the audience with their frequency. The horror isn’t given any room to develop within this section, and the characters have next to no evident development. The second half improves mildly as Saxon Sharbino as Alex tries her best to work through a weak script and hunt down the truth behind Mr B and how to beat him. However, by the time the film’s reached its truly mad conclusion, it’s likely that even the most patient of audience members will have tuned out due to the preceding repetition.
Overall, Bedeviled borrows a lot from popular films in the genre without really bringing its own ideas to the forefront. There are competent performances from most of the cast, and technical skill displayed throughout, both marred by the film’s lack of identity and underdeveloped plot.