The Horror Show

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by Abel Vang, Burlee Vang

Technology is an ever-evolving element of our world. More and more advancements are being made every day and it shapes our culture as well as how we live, so it makes sense that horror movies would delve into the subject. Plenty of wonderful films have been made dealing with the changing world around us and the new things that come with it. I didn't automatically judge a film that centers around an evil phone app. They exist. Apps I mean, not menacing ones. My belief is that if something exists, it can be authentically worked into a movie. I don't mind electronic cigarettes and fidget spinners being thrown into movies and TV shows because they are a part of life right now. I mean, Casablanca not featuring any cell phones was hardly a creative choice built on integrity. The point I'm making is that I went in with an open mind. There have been a slew of movies over the past few years that center around internet culture to varying success. So how was this one? we go.

Bedeviled follows a group of high school friends who have recently lost one of their own. A young girl has died inexplicably of a heart attack, although we, the audience, know it was anything but natural. Long story short, the group members all end up getting an invite to a phone app that we instantly know is involved in their friend's death. At first, they love it. It's super interactive and can even control their other electronics without any further installation or instruction. Little by little, however, it starts to make the respective teens uncomfortable. It taunts them, becomes uncooperative and makes them see sinister things. At first, the kids write the experiences off as grief over their friend's death manifesting into hallucination. They discover, however, that the situation is much more dangerous than that.

So, the big question: how was it? Was it bad? No, I don't think so. Was it good? Meh. Yes, I just answered a yes or no question with “meh.” That's how I see it, though. It was far less cringe-worthy than some similar films I've seen, but it also just feels like a bunch of stuff happening without really amounting to much. It has the standard jump scares and some moments are actually a little creepy, but any horror fan or person who has seen more than three horror flicks will know when the scares are coming and when they will be expected to gasp. Those gasps, however, will likely not happen.

The film borrows heavily from other movies. This isn't something that I will condemn in a blanket sense. I mean, all movies are inspired by others and as long as something new and fresh comes out of it, that's fine. The problem with Bedeviled in this regard is that it doesn't even try to bring a new voice to the secondhand concepts and moments. When a character has a frightful experience that causes her to jump up in class and leave, it just feels like I'm watching Nancy in Nightmare on Elm Street. Not to mention the film revolves around a group of young people who are individually stalked by a mysterious being that knows their greatest fears. It takes the form of a clown, an elderly family member of one of the characters that was a cause of intimidation, etc. Now, I'm not saying that Stephen King's IT is the only tale that deals with such subject matter as the physical representation of various fears, but Bedeviled never really makes that idea its own and feels like a lesser attempt at a classic idea.

The acting isn't bad at all. In a strange way, however, that's half the problem. It isn't bad enough to be cheesy fun and it isn't good enough to emotionally touch base. That last sentence isn't completely fair as there is only so much that can be done with the dialogue. The performers could be quite good with better material and there are moments where they connect with one another. In a way, the performances are some of the more respectable elements of the film, but I can't help but feel I'd have more fun if the movie just went for corny. The characters don't really stand out from one another and the movie's attempt to cram in some last-minute character development feels hollow. It's presented as if some of the characters have come full circle, but it doesn't feel especially genuine.

I truly don't want to sound too harsh when reviewing Bedeviled because it's admittedly better than it could have been. While not particularly memorable, it has its moments and is shot quite well, but it doesn't spread its wings and do anything that would lead me to believe that anyone involved was especially passionate about what they were making. In the end it feels like something Are You Afraid of the Dark? would done way better and made much more fun back in the 90's. (Midnight Society forever, y'all!

Bedeviled could have leaned into the wackiness or at least upped the violence aspect. A fun gore epic about a killer app or a campy movie reveling in its own ridiculousness could be amazing. Hell, a mixture of those two things could be an absolute blast. Instead, it's a collection of reused scares and an only slightly intriguing villain that never fully develops. But I can see others appreciating it more, so nothing I say should completely steer you away. If it sounds interesting to you, I say you might as well give it a try.

P.J. Griffin, HMS

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