Starring Saxon Sharbino, Mitchell Edwards, Brandon Soo Hoo, Victory Van Tuyl, Carson Boatman, Alexis G. Zall, Jordan Essoe
Directed by The Vang Brothers (Burlee and Abel Vang)
Like a sinister Siri, Mr. Bedevil is an interactive phone app that offers an endless stream of horrific hints, awful advice and demonic directives. When it comes to the movie Bedeviled, think: Her meets Unfriended.
Hype online implies that Bedeviled is the second coming of “It.” It is not. The book and the original miniseries of “It” focused on mature adult characters with layered backstories and looked deeply into how their childhood horrors shaped the nightmare they were currently trying to escape. In contrast, Bedeviled features a bunch of privileged teens who aren’t developed beyond the surface.
Shortly after Alice (Sharbino) loses her elderly grandma and her best friend in quick succession, the invitation to install an app appears on her smartphone. She installs it, and it quickly accesses her Facebook friends list, address book, photos, email and everything. This how the app will know anything and everything about her so as to be at the best service possible. It automatically sends out app requests to all of Alice’s besties. Seems great at first, but the app’s avatar, Mr. Bedevil (Essoe), is actually a virus from the netherworld. Needless to say, the friends team up to try and defeat the scary software, and one by one their numbers dwindle until it’s down to final girl Alice.
Bedeviled is written and directed by the Nicholl Fellowship award-winning team of Abel and Burlee Vang – the brothers’ attention to detail and love of lush visuals are apparent in the locations and cinematography. Bedeviled looks great, and it’s easy to see the movie was made with concern and care. Unfortunately, those pluses don’t outweigh the stilted dialogue and actors who aren’t quite up to the task of delivering it. It’s not horrible, but the conversations don’t quite gel in a believable manner. If the dialogue were really bad, or the actors were horrible, that could be fun in its own way. In the case Bedeviled, it’s just “not great.”
Sharbino is fine, but she doesn’t evoke one’s sympathy as have some other horror-centric teen actresses (I’m thinking of Heather Langenkamp old school or Abigail Breslin now). The supporting cast is okay, but the only semi-standout is Mitchell Edwards, who plays one of the beleaguered besties.
The most compelling actor is Essoe as Mr. Bedevil – he’s nicely augmented with great makeup by Almost Human’s Robert Hall and Jessica J. Eisenman. His dandy outfit, complete with a creepy red bowtie, is perfect. He’s a villain I’d like to see again. As for his creepy cohorts, he’s got a twisted version of Alice’s grandma and a jumble of odious clowns (maybe that’s where the constant references to “It” are coming from). They all look awesome. When it comes to the presentation of the baddie and his minions, horror fans are sure to be pleased.
Bedeviled is a pretty good movie. It will probably appeal mostly to teens and casual fright flick fans who don’t have discerning tastes. I don’t say that to be mean or derisive at all; it’s just not up to all the hype comparing it to truly great genre classics. I had fun watching it, and as I said: I’m up for more of Mr. Bedevil in the future.