DEAR DAVID (2023) Suffers From Genre Cliches

Augustus Prew as Adam Ellis and Cameron Nicoll as Dear David in Dear David. Photo Credit: Stephanie Montani

By: Chris Hammond

Directed by: John McPhail

Screenplay by: Mike Van Waes

Story by: Mike Van Waes & Evan Turner

Starring: Augustus Prew, Andrea Bang, Rene Escobar Jr., Cameron Nicoll, Justin Long

Distributor: Lionsgate

Co-Production: Lionsgate and BuzzFeed Studios

In Theaters, On Demand and Digital: October 13, 2023

Run Time: 94 minutes
Rating: Rated R for violent content, language and sexual reference.

Adam (Augustus Prew) is a comic artist who works at Buzzfeed. He engages with internet trolls who judge his work. After one encounter online he interacts with an unknown account called “Dead David” and things take a creepy turn. He’s experiencing sleep paralysis — while an empty rocking chair moves in the corner of his apartment. Adam chronicles the increasingly malevolent occurrences in a series of tweets and believes he is haunted by the ghost of a dead child named David. Bryce (Justin Long) his boss encourages Adam to continue the “Dear David” thread, even though it’s clear he is losing his grip on what is online…and what is real. Based on the viral Twitter thread by BuzzFeed comic artist Adam Ellis.

This film is based on a Twitter thread by Adam Ellis. Although the thread itself was entertaining enough, how would they make it into a film without losing some of the excitement of that thread?

The film is directed by John McPhail, who also directed the entertaining horror/comedy/musical Anna and the Apocalypse. This time around he helms the horror/thriller DEAR DAVID.

The film stars Augustus Prew, who plays Adam. It’s fun to watch him go through all the horror troupes that audiences have become accustomed to, but it becomes repetitive as the film progresses.

DEAR DAVID is pretty generic in the horror department. Still, it does have a few elements of interest which include “real-time” tweets which are incorporated into scenes throughout the film. The cast is great and plays their parts in the Dear David mystery with panache.

The main issue with the film is there’s a been there, done that feel to it. There are even a few scenes that are lifted right from other (better-executed films). Also, it isn’t as scary as it wants to be. There are a few scenes where Prew wakes up from his sleep paralysis that elicit fear, but these are few and far between.

DEAR DAVID does however work better as a thriller, but it only feels like a half-done script. There’s a scene where Adam goes to see a patient, the clerk says “You need to be family to see this patient” and Adam tells him about how he is being haunted. The clerk gets called away from his desk and just happens to leave his security pass right there. This feels forced and set up, especially leaving your security card at your desk after someone tells you they are being haunted.

The effects of the horror elements are mainly CGI and usually fall pretty flat. The film might benefit from a more practical effect approach, although it is also more expensive. There are some good intense scenes surrounding Adam, but they are washed away by the wishy-washy effects and poor writing.

Justin Long, who is popping up in so many horror films is fun to watch in his scenes, but he also feels a little out of place in the film.

DEAR DAVID has the framework of an interesting film, especially being based in somewhat reality. It suffers though from being unoriginal in its execution. If an interesting “original” film is what you want, go check out the John McPhail-directed Anna and the Apocalypse.

In Theaters, On Demand and Digital: October 13, 2023

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