Teenage Nikki (Alexis G. Zall) was having trouble sleeping one night; her mother came in to check on her, but she wasn't very responsive, having been on the internet and her phone, but this will be her downfall. As the darkness creeps into the house, she starts wandering around inside until she realises she is being stalked by a mysterious, laughing figure (Jordan Essoe) which leaps out at her and apparently scares her to death. Literally: at the funeral shortly after, her friends gather to reflect on what could possibly have gone wrong and have no idea. However, a clue may arrive when Nikki sends them an app on their phones from beyond the grave...
Except it might not have been from Nikki at all, it might be from... The Devil! How to make a movie relevant to millennials would be the issue the Vang Brothers were tackling with Bedeviled (the misspelling was part of the title to emphasise the Satanic bit), and they hit a brainwave: twenty-first century kids are never off their phones, are they? So what better to put the wind up them than a haunted phone? Brilliant! Or, maybe not so brilliant, maybe pandering and obvious, more appropriate to a comedy sketch show than a feature length chiller - well, the lead villain did like to laugh his head off at every opportunity, after all.
This would have been a fair horror for kids, to get them interested in the genre at an early age, were it not for the strong language the Vangs littered at intermittent points throughout the dialogue. That kind of left the target between two stools, too juvenile in its bloodless setpieces for the older generations, and not something parents or guardians would approve of for the younger, if it meant they picked up some bad habits as far as their speech went. Certainly the cast playing teens were pretty young, late teenage or just after, so the commonly heard complaint that the performers were plainly overage in a horror did not apply to the same extent here.
What did apply was that the Vangs had clearly been hanging out online and picking up scary memes to turn into their plot, therefore what you had was a mixture of A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Lawnmower Man (together at last!) as once the devilish app had been downloaded and was getting up to all sorts of super-controlling activities, its avatar, a bowtie-wearing silhouette, would end up visiting nightmares upon the users. This played out as what they were most scared of, which for the lead girl Alice (Saxon Sharbino) was her grandmother, but more often than not were mute actors throwing would-be alarming shapes as clowns, that most hackneyed of stand-ins for online frights, and not exactly terrifying here either, especially when they didn't even show us what happened to the afflicted when caught.
There was a nod to genre savvy when the sole black character, Cody (Mitchell Edwards), admits his biggest fear is white people, which could have been fertile ground for something anticipating the next year's groundbreaker Get Out (it was made in 2016), but simply amounted to Cody being freaked out by a ghoulish cop. He is the technologically invested one, so was on hand to explain how a supernatural app could afflict your phone, though that was difficult to swallow, almost as if the script was making all the phone tech up - well, I never. There were also a couple of sex scenes so coy that they could only bring themselves to put them on the soundtrack, not the visuals, another instance of Bedeviled being curiously reticent to go for the jugular yet including material the younglings who would have got the most out of would not be ready to watch. Had they clearly worked out who they were aiming at, they might have concocted a movie far less broken-backed. Music by David Williams.