By David Dent
I suppose it was only a matter of time before the Artificial Intelligence advances in home computing were exploited via a horror movie. It’s only been a few years since Unfriended (2014 and its 2018 sequel) and Friend Request (2016) played on the anxieties of Skyping, and of course Cell (2016) took a rather dim view of the ubiquity of mobile phones.
The likes of Siri and its rivals are the source of the tension in Bedeviled, and when you step back and think about it, the presence of an artificial entity in your home obeying your orders is already a pretty scary concept, and ripe for cinema making it even more terrifying.
A group of ‘privileged teenagers’ as described by one character are mourning the death of one of their classmates, Nikki, a seemingly happy soul who has suddenly died following a massive heart attack. Her best friend Alice, Alice’s boyfriend Gavin, Cody, Dan and Haley make up the classmate circle trying to come to terms with Nikki’s death, when one by one they receive requests to download an app called Mr Bedevil, sent from their dead friend’s phone.
All are tech savvy but also far too trusting of new apps, despite their awareness of data mining and fake identities, and therefore accept that the request must have been set up before Nikki died. But although Mr Bedevil (voiced rather brilliantly by Vera Psycho Miles’s grandson Jordan Essoe) is initially very resourceful, providing ‘companionship for his users,’ he soon oversteps the limits of AI acceptable behaviour and before long is a threat to the group’s lives.
One by one Mr B insinuates himself into their collective consciousness, exploiting their fears through a series of terrifying visions, until inevitably the body count rises. How do you stop something that materialises through a phone, where even destroying the mobile itself cannot stop it?
While some of the smaller plot elements remain unresolved, the bigger issues here are a) why can’t they disable the router, or just throw the phones in the garbage and b) where are the parents to help (it’s one of those largely adult-free movies where the kids must sort things out themselves)?
But having mentioned those gripes, Bedeviled fairly zips along, and the young cast are very good at ratcheting up the tension, even if their conversation sometimes wills on their early exits. It’s PG stuff but there are some great scares (Alice’s dead grandmother for example) and even if you can feel the ‘they’re ok but are they?’ ending coming a mile off it’s still a pretty thrilling ride while it lasts.