Whenever a movie is based on something, there is always hesitation that the base work is going to be rather difficult to adapt to be something interesting for an audience to engage with as a film. However, when that film is also based on a thread of tweets, there is even more hesitation from the audience because how on earth could a film based on a series of tweets actually captivate an audience? This has been done, to my knowledge, once before with Zola (2020) and that turned out to be one of the wildest and creatively insane movies I’ve ever seen. With Dear David, John McPhail (Anna and the Apocalypse) brings this haunting, chilling, and downright disturbing thread to life with a cast that captivates the horrors best they can, but something lacks to get the audiences to further feel the dread and chills that the actual thread delivered to the forefront.
Adam Ellis (Augustus Prew) works at BuzzFeed and is starting to have disturbing nightmares of a dead child haunting him, almost mocking him as it sits in a rocking chair in his room, tormenting him. The dead child in question is David (Cameron Nicoll) and he has some rules. You can ask him questions, but only two, never three. While Adam is living his own nightmare, his co-worker and friend Evelyn (Andrea Bang) believes him, while his boss Bryce (Justin Long) is just trying to protect BuzzFeed and is more focused on deadlines and Adam keeping it together.
The problem with Dear David is that outside of Augustus Prew, every other character feels just like a plot device. They’re not given enough to work with to create a world for their character to exist in and thusly just fall to the wayside. Even in the original tweets, it was mostly focused on Adam and David, which made the entire thread creepier and it didn’t divulge Adam’s life outside of his apartment, staying focused where David reigned supreme. However, though, Augustus Prew does breathe life into David and ensures that there is a level of eeriness and creepiness to bring the scares and torment to life, and, thusly, gives audiences something to sit in, and while they might go and search the thread now (if they haven’t already read it), they at least know what awaits them after the credits roll.
Evan Turner (The Out-Laws) and first-time screenwriter Mike Van Waes collaborate together to bring these tweets to life, but the issue lies in the ideology of creating something more than what the original thread gave us, and, unfortunately, that is where the movie loses its footing. The thread almost entirely stayed within Adam’s apartment and that truly added to the creepiness and intense vibe that would send chills down ones’ spines and have them checking every corner of their living spaces. But by eliminating that near single atmosphere and having Adam be at work and realize he’s slowly losing his grip on reality breaks that tension that the thread provided and, thusly, creates an environment for the audience to have a near sigh of relief after intensity, eliminating that ever-present bone-chilling vibe of the original thread.
Dear David does something that is incredibly challenging and most could not pull off, and that is adapting a series of tweets into a full-length feature film. John McPhail manages to create a world for the audience to sink their teeth into and creates a sense of unease with the script by Evan Turner and Mike Van Waes, but, unfortunately, Dear David misses the mark of sheer dread and tension due to creative license and the supporting cast being rather utterly wasted. Dear David provides some of the scares, but the true horror still lies within the tweets of Adam Ellis. Read them while you still can.
In theaters, on VOD, and digital October 13th, 2023.
For more information, head to the official Lionsgate Dear David webpage.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.