Dear David 2023 720p WEB-DL x264
Set in 2017, Adam Ellis (Augustus Prew) is a visual artist working at Buzzfeed who produces comics for the site. As Adam's boyfriend Kyle (René Escobar Jr.) heads off to visit his mother who's undergoing surgery much to Adam's disinterest, Adam engages in vitriolic exchanges with various Twitter trolls until an account called Dear David begins following him which repeatedly tries to goad him into asking it three questions. As Adam is stricken by night terrors of visitations of a boy with a caved-in head, Adam begins documenting the escalating encounters via a Twitter thread that dramatically increases his online reach as his professional and personal relationships suffer increasing amounts of strain. Dear David is the latest release from Buzzfeed Studios and based upon the 2017 Twitter thread by visual artist and former Buzzfeed contributor Adam Ellis. I'll admit I wasn't all that familiar with the Twitter phenomenon at the time and very much researched it after the fact, and after reading through it, it feels like a case of "you probably had to be there at the time". There's been debate among internet denizens as to whether the thread was real or some sort of internet fiction in the vein of SCP or Mother Horse Eyes, but the thread became notable as a milestone in one of the first instances of an urban legend born from Twitter in a manner similar to the phenomenon of Slender Man. At one point Dear David was positioned to be made as a much larger film at New Line Cinema, but eventually the rights found their way instead to Buzzfeed Studios as a VOD release through Lionsgate. While Internet based horror films have been attempted many times prior, for every success like Deadstream and (to an extent) the Unfriended films, the annals of horror history are littered with the likes of Feardotcom, Smiley, Chain Letter, and the infamously troubled Slender Man film. While Dear David doesn't plumb the depths of this subgenre, it's also not especially good either. A big issue with Dear David is the establishment of its tone. Rather than play as a completely straight horror film, Dear David swings back and forth between taking itself somewhat seriously while also having a lot of broad comedic (I think) scenes coupled with scenes in the Buzzfeed offices where Justin Long's unnamed boss character plays a very broad archetypical tech company boss who's less a character and more a caricature which is one of a number of elements that never causes these comedic scenes to reconcile with the horror ones. The horror elements aren't particularly well done as despite the initially intriguing setup of some scenes where the Dear David account terrorizes some internet trolls, the movie features the same fundamental confusion as seen in Friend Request where it's trying to be this morality tale but it isn't framed in any way where it really earns it. The inciting incident for example is Adam Ellis responding to a twitter troll with "DIAF or (Die in a Fire" which you can argue is tasteless, but when he's responding to an instigating party is that really something worthy of karmic punishment and not just a descending cycle? That's not to say Adam Ellis is all that likable because he really isn't as he is shown to be selfish, dismissive, and an egotist and if that were part of a richer arc I could see that working but his relationship with Rene Escobar Jr.'s Kyle is so flatly defined you really don't have much reason to care. And if you're expecting this to lead to any kind of satisfying climax, think again as instead we're treated to one of the most ill-advised laughter inducing scare sequences I can recall seeing that made my jaw drop with how stupid it was. Dear David is the kind of movie where you can see a nugget of a good idea, but it's buried under a tonal mess and sloppy writing. If this had tried to be either more of a black comedy or straight horror story I could've seen it working, but it's not sure handed enough to do both and ends up satisfying neither. In the annals of unimpressive internet horror it's above the likes of Smiley and Feardotcom and I wasn't annoyed at it like the last Buzzfeed film I saw with the gaming-sexism comedy 1Up, but while not awful it's still bad and whatever brief moments I might've enjoyed aren't worth sitting through the entirety of the film.
- Justin Long
- Andrea Bang
- Augustus Prew