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Dear David is a horror from the internet. It should have stayed there

Much more than broken bones, bloody noses, night terrors and mangled demon children, what scares me the most Dear David is becoming the villain in Adam Ellis’ head.

That’s because the new horror, sprung directly from the mind and Twitter thread (the website is now reluctantly called X) of the aforementioned cartoonist, exists less to thrill audiences than for Ellis’s own peace of mind.

Using an improvised premise more incredible and less coherent than if the cats The film was also presented as a true story. Dear David disappoints in what it seems to be trying to do. Instead of exploiting a potentially interesting experience to generate more and more scares, this adaptation was apparently done expressly to get back at Ellis’s skeptics and critics of him.

That’s not to say those themes were championed by Ellis himself, but they’re hard to ignore given the route this story took for the film.

Even after parlaying that success into a job at Buzzfeed, what really launched the popular webcomic artist’s cultural cachet was Dear David, in its first appearance as a Twitter thread about his experiences with nightmares, sleep paralysis, and the strength supernatural of the same name with a partially dented head. .

SEE | Dear David trailer:

That thread, which lasted for months and even included a drawing of the demon in question, had everything necessary to arrive at the legend of creepypasta, an Internet-based horror subgenre designed to be shared repeatedly and at least partially believed, which has already generated the (superior in every way) horror series Channel zero. With semi-believable images depicting shadowy figures, eerie but indecipherable recordings, and an arbitrarily strict set of rules for asking Dear David two (never three!) questions, it quickly gained hundreds of thousands of likes sustained over months of posting.

But while Ellis’ original tweets were little more than a collage of semi-creepy observations of a settlement house and the nonsensical behavior of its cats, the project co-produced by Lionsgate and, unsurprisingly, Buzzfeed Studios, injects more story , both in David’s backstory. and, most tellingly, Ellis’s.

because while Dear David is brave (unlike Exorcist: believer and What comes next) for being one of the only productions that dared to confront Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour At this week’s box office, the addition of the plot reads like an exercise in self-insertion therapy.

Here, long before he is haunted by ghosts, Ellis is chased by trolls. Played by The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of PowerAugustus Prew, our big screen cartoonist, also draws, works at BuzzFeed, and eventually encounters a scary circumstance that derails his life. But first, we see him turning to Twitter, compulsively searching for the few negative comments among a sea of ​​praise.

Augustus Prew appears as Adam Ellis in Dear David. (Stephanie Montani/Lionsgate)

And even as his coworkers give the helpful advice not to “feed the trolls,” we see Ellis fall further into the habit of fighting with accounts that can collectively be described as a bunch of numbers.

It’s all loosely mirrored by David’s parallel origin story, which involves a hapless cyberbullied boy with some of the most hilariously awkward dialogue written outside of an Archie comic, and the ending, which involves the incredibly harsh metaphor of a massacre. using a wifi router. .

Combined with wooden lines (“Say goodnight to your cyber friends” and her boyfriend’s clumsy relationship metaphor, “We have to keep the signal full between us or the call will be dropped,” are among my favorites) and a plot complicated that skips between horror genres without even landing on one long enough to generate suspense, there is little scaffolding to support this warning.

Trolling the trolls

And although, according to director John McPhail, Ellis himself had relatively little to do with the final story, it seems that he and his writers delved too deeply into Ellis’ own life as a cornerstone of the film’s center. Because while we often gravitate toward horror for the novelty of experiencing danger you’ll almost certainly survive, some of the genre’s most well-worn (and expected) tropes surround punishment.

From the classics I know what you did last summerto Friday the 13thto the most recent HE, Hereditary, Final destination and Call the boothThese movies create gore as a consequence of something their characters did, especially if those characters are women, people of color, or gay.

And since our genuine monster story is continually interrupted by a barrage of profanity-filled comments no more evil than what we’d find scrolling down the average YouTube page, it seems more like that’s what the movie is about: trolls punished. for trolling and Ellis for daring to challenge them.

The problem, however, is how Dear David choose to frame it. Because if we’re here to vilify trolls, we’d need to have a character who actually gets punished, something that’s obviously missing here. And if it were to punish Ellis, we would need the horror side of the story to take priority, and maybe for Ellis to not continue interacting with trolls to this day.

Instead, the scares are so light that it’s hard to believe this movie is anything more than an opinion piece about how hard it is to be Adam Ellis: the element of supernatural horror that shines over a very special episode about why you shouldn’t have made. He posted that comment. And even taking horror at face value, it’s still too well-packaged and cartoonish to be scary, as is often the case with what Ellis has largely been presenting as artistic horror content since leaving Buzzfeed four years ago. years.

Although it’s drawn with stellar talent, both the story and the style seem to try to convince you of the strangeness rather than show it off. Just as Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker had an effortless quality that produced genuine chills, while Jared Leto’s felt like overzealous cosplay, the horror here tries too hard to unsettle anyone. If something like the rawness of artist Junji Ito’s horror is on one end of the spectrum, Ellis’s corporate work at Buzzfeed is right up there with CalArts and JibJab.

It’s all on top of a plot that immediately falls apart if you think about it for a second, and an underlying message that rivals The spell as a defense of conspiracy theories and the paranormal. And while a journalist understands how difficult it is to receive hateful comments, death threats, and immediate criticism for one’s work, there probably still isn’t horror movie-worthy content to do with it.

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