Combustible Celluloid
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With: Saxon Sharbino, Mitchell Edwards, Brandon Soo Hoo, Victory Van Tuyl, Carson Boatman, Jordan Essoe, Alexis G. Zall, Robyn Cohen, Kate Orsini, Bonnie Morgan, Aaron Hendry
Written by: Abel Vang, Burlee Vang
Directed by: Abel Vang, Burlee Vang
MPAA Rating: R for terror, language and some sexual material
Running Time: 91
Date: 08/12/2017

Bedeviled (2017)

2 Stars (out of 4)

App Trap

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Directed by Hmong-American brothers Abel and Burlee Vang, this horror movie looks great and busts open a few old genre chestnuts, but it's also chronically predictable, bland, and not all that scary.

In Bedeviled, Nikki (Alexis G. Zall) is mysteriously killed one night, leaving her five best friends — Cody (Mitchell Edwards), Alice (Saxon Sharbino), Gavin (Carson Boatman), Haley (Victory Van Tuyl), and Dan (Brandon Soo Hoo) — devastated. Soon after, though, they all receive invitations on their phones, from Nikki's phone, to download a new Siri-like app called "Mr. Bedevil."

As soon as they each download it, terrible things begin to happen. At first, it's only scary taunts, but then things escalate from a homemade sex video being uploaded to Instagram, to killer clowns appearing and tearing the kids limb from limb. Computer genius Cody must devise a way to catch the elusive app so that it can be deleted for good — but the only bait that will work is... fear!

Bedeviled features some strong cinematography, with lots of looming corridors lit by eerie glows. And it refreshingly features a black male in the lead role, rather than the stereotypical first victim (the character himself remarks on this unique quality). It even allows the teens time to mourn their friend, a necessary emotional response that is often forgotten in horror.

Moreover, Bedeviled is a great title, and it's clear that the Vang brothers wanted to start a new supernatural serial killer franchise to compliment Freddy and Jason. But that's about where the excitement stops. Their Mr. Bedevil, marked by his red bow tie and clown smile, is more annoying than scary.

And though the movie is clearly aimed at teens — there are very few helpful or available adults around — the characters are awkwardly written and rarely sound like actual people. It's an admirable attempt to rise above the murk of the slasher genre, and it almost succeeds, but then it sinks down again.

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