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Release Date: 10/13/23 [VOD]
Genre: Horror. Thriller.

Studio: Lionsgate.

"A man is haunted by the ghost of a boy named David, who is trying to kill him." 


There’s a scene in Dear David where our main character, Adam, is trying to tell his boyfriend about the mysterious entity he believes is in his house. The boyfriend wants to believe Adam, but is too hurt because he has recently discovered that Adam created a secret Grindr account. When Adam tries to prove that he didn’t, and pulls out his phone to show his boyfriend, he discovers the app installed on his phone with a profile complete with photos. But he didn’t create the account. By this point in the film, we know he hasn’t too. The truth is his phone has been hacked by that same entity he’s so scared of. If that sounds like the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard, that’s just scratching the surface on how awful this film is. 


Inspired by the viral Twitter thread, that is, in turn, based on alleged real-life events experienced by former Buzzfeed employee Adam Ellis, the film follows a fictionalized version of Ellis as he documents strange occurrences in his apartment. As he comes to find out, these are not just strange occurrences, but rather the works of something sinister he’s unwittingly invited into the real world as a result of his awful online conduct.


When we first meet Ellis, he’s a twenty-something living in NYC who is living every millennial’s proverbial dream. He’s got a partner who loves him, a dream job at one of the most popular companies in the world, and an affordable apartment in a nice neighborhood. What more could he ask for? But a combination of imposter syndrome and a demanding boss (played by a ridiculously conspicuous Justin Long) force him to have an unhealthy relationship with the internet. He constantly vents online and even has a habit of interacting with trolls. But after one mysterious account calls him out for his behavior, he provokes it. In the process, he grants it permission to troll him in real life. 


At first “David” (as Ellis calls the entity) appears as a vague outline of a shadow in the corner of his room. Then he begins to manifest himself in his dreams. Then he begins to manifest himself across all of Ellis’ devices. It’s a progression that might be scary if done properly. Sadly, it’s not. And it has nothing to do with the sketchy source material and everything to do with the presentation. 


Rather than slowly show us what David is capable of, early on in the film we witness him actually kill a teen who takes pleasure in trolling on the internet. Not only does it have no real connection to Ellis or the rest of the narrative (it’s never alluded to again). It entirely undermines the goal of the film. The mystery behind what David can do and how much power he holds in the real world is immediately revealed. It turns what should be a suspenseful ride into a dull chore to sit through. 


What makes even less sense is Ellis’ investigation into David’s past. As the events become more extreme and he becomes more alienated from his loved ones, it’s only natural for Ellis to become curious about the origin of the entity. But his research leads him to a dead body that is literally left hanging and also never alluded to again. Oddly enough, Ellis’ vivid dreams tell the audience everything it needs to know about who David is/was. So the investigation just feels like an attempt to extend the film’s sluggish 90 minute runtime.


John McPhail, who previously helmed the awesome genre-bending Anna and the Apocalypse, is credited as the director here. As derivative and dumb as the story is, you can feel him trying to dig deeper to make something of substance. The film’s trailer makes it look like a parody, so the fact that the film is a lot more serious is a victory, albeit a small one. That’s the nicest thing to be said about it.

While David may be the film’s main villain, the true villain here is easily Buzzfeed. As a company that has clearly run out of ideas and has become a shell of the media conglomerate it used to be, it’s sad that it had nowhere else to look for original content than a questionable story chronicled over Twitter half a decade ago. As a result, what could have easily been a cool, creative and modern horror homage to The Ring winds up just being absolutely bo-Ring.


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