In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, they made a joke that Sarah Marshall had been in a bad horror movie about a killer cell phone. Kristen Bell took it personally because she had actually starred in the American remake of Pulse. There are legitimate things to fear about our technology, but it’s not that evil spirit possessing our devices. Bedeviled is about a killer phone app. You would hope that anyone making a movie about a killer app would be aware that the idea of a killer app sounds like a silly gimmick, so they must have an idea so great that they just have to make the killer app movie. No, it’s just a scratchy voice and it makes scary ghouls appear.
It begins effectively, building up Nikki (Alexis G. Zall) walking downstairs in the dark when a monster appears. The camera is steady and the lighting is good, even in the dark. This bodes well. When we meet Nikki’s friends, they talk sensitively and honestly.
When the Mr. Bedeviled app shows up on their phone, that’s a red flag, but they gave me a solid setup so I’ll go with it. Mr. Bedeviled is a casual A.I. who can learn your tastes and speak with you like a person, not in a robotic set of programmed responses. So the hormonal oaf asks it about porn and one kid uses it for legit schoolwork.
Alice Gorman (Saxon Sharbino) is Nikki’s best friend and the main character. Mr. Bedeviled acts helpful at first but really i’s already creepy and misjudging her. It acts like a compassionate listener but he’s asking her invasive questions. So that could be something if the point was that our technology is becoming invasive, but it’s really jus setting up that Mr. Bedeviled hooks into everyone’s home devices so it can control them remotely.
And I’m sorry, but an app swearing at me is not scaring. That’s more like an app that’s an asshole than an app that’s a killer. Then it’s just jump scares with costumed ghouls, or Mr. Bedeviled possesses authority figures, and a bit of the old elongated mouths and long arms.
The script has the characters struggle to discuss psychosomatic and technological possibilities. Don’t worry. It really is a killer app, if that’s a preferable story. I love this cast. They’re very sympathetic, even the horndog douchebag. He didn’t mean to cross the line. Bedeviled used his weakness against him.
Some of the dialogue just asks them to stall, like having Cody (Mitchell Edwards) constantly saying he’ll take some time to figure out the latest trick of the app. This is irrelevant anyway because we know it’s not going to turn out to be technology. It’s a magic evil app.
Bedeviled is well directed and well performed. It’s the script that fails to convince the viewer that a killer app can sustain a movie, let alone be scary. Hollywood has struggled to make horror movies out of modern technology since the killer video game movie Brainscan, probably earlier and I’m forgetting some. Once we all move on to direct brain downloads, this app movie will feel as dated as that one.