|Original title:||Dear David|
|Running time:||95 minutes|
|Release date:||13 october 2023|
Dear David promised to be a unique addition to the growing trend of films based on Twitter threads, taking its inspiration from artist and writer Adam Ellis, who recounted a haunting in his apartment that kept readers glued to their screens for over a year. However, this film, directed by John McPhail and written by Mike Van Waes, fails to capture the genuine horror and suspense that made the original Twitter feed so intriguing.
Set in 2017, the film transports viewers to a time when Internet culture was dominated by articles and online content creators sought to make a name for themselves. The story's real antagonist isn't the titular ghost, but rather BuzzFeed director Bryce, played by Justin Long. Justin Long's performance, with its arrogant discussions of views and commitment, is ironically more terrifying than any supernatural presence. It's worth noting that the involvement of BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti as the film's producer adds an interesting meta layer, since Ellis originally documented his haunting experiences on that very platform.
The film's central character, Adam Ellis, played by Augustus Prew, is mostly seen staring at his smartphone, doomscrolling alone in his dimly lit apartment. In fact, the most thrilling element of Dear David might be the revelation of Adam's screen time, highlighting the film's missed opportunity to delve deeper into the modern obsession with technology and the way it shapes our lives.
Occasional incidents in the apartment, such as a rocking chair that moves on its own and cats that gather at the door to bark, are supposed to add an element of suspense. Unfortunately, these supernatural events fall flat and fail to elicit the expected thrills. Adam's ongoing battle with the hallucinations of sleep paralysis and his move to a new apartment are supposed to intensify the sense of dread, but they fail to create a truly sinister atmosphere. Throughout the film, Adam continues to document his experiences on Twitter, driven to produce more viral content for Bryce under the imminent threat of losing his job in the fast-paced, unforgiving world of digital media.
The film's potential to become an introspective indie work about the commodification of personal lives in the digital age and the impact of platforms like BuzzFeed on the world of online news is largely unexplored. Instead, Dear David settles for a classic ghost story, replete with tropes borrowed from other horror classics, such as The Ring. Although the film contains its fair share of digitally rendered ghosts, the most unsettling moments come when the carefree bloggers gossip casually about staff turnover. Unfortunately, Justin Long's considerable talent is underutilized in his role as Bryce.
Director John McPhail, previously known for the delightful Anna and the Apocalypse (2019), eliminates every trace of whimsy, humor and creative innovation in "Follow_Dead (Dear David)". Cheap digital cinematography and lackluster computer-generated graphics make the film feel hastily assembled, as if it were simply an attempt to capitalize on a viral hit from five years ago. In the end, Dear David isn't a true cinematic experience; it's more like a piece of content. It lacks both the artistry and the insight that could have turned it into a truly intriguing horror film, making it a missed opportunity in the realm of cinematic storytelling.
Directed by John McPhail
Screenplay by Mike Van Waes
Story by Mike Van Waes, Evan Turner
Based on Dear David by Adam Ellis
Produced by Richard Alan Reid Michael Philip Jason Moring, Naysun Alae-Carew, Charlotte Walsh
Starring Augustus Prew, Andrea Bang, René Escobar Jr, Cameron Nicoll, Justin Long
Cinematography : Stephen Whitehead
Edited by Glenn Garland, David Arthur
Music by Tommy Reilly, Roddy Hart
Production company : BuzzFeed Studios
Distributed by Lionsgate
Release date : October 13, 2023 (United States), October 13, 2023 (France)
Running time : 95 minutes
Viewed: November 07, 2023 (Amazon VOD)