‘Dear David’ Review: The Real Story Was Scarier

Kevin Taft reviews Dear David, a horror film that only accomplishes so much as a dramatacized take on a supposedly true story.
User Rating: 5

Based on the viral Twitter account, Dear David tells the story of a Buzzfed cartoonist who suddenly realizes his New York apartment is haunted by the ghost of a dead child.

In August 2017, Adam Ellis started documenting his confrontations with a child ghost in his apartment. For weeks after, he kept Twitter abuzz with the weird goings on, strange pictures, and truly terrifying videos that had many wondering if it was all fake. To this day, he alleges it’s real.

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The real Adam Ellis

Now, with the film adaptation Dear David, we get a heavily fictionalized story that revolves around the theme of bullying, giving a reason for the ghost to be haunting David and for the haunting to escalate. Too bad they didn’t stick with the actual story.

Augustus Prew stars as Adam, who seems content with his life as a Buzzfeed cartoonist, drawing comics about everyday life that many of his fans relate to. He’s dating a sweet man, René Escobar Jr., and has a best friend in his co-worker Evelyn (Andrea Bang.)

But when his boyfriend is out of town, and he starts drunk-replying to people who don’t like his comics, he says something pretty mean, bringing forth the ghost. Enter “Dear David,” an account that starts to follow and harass him online. Not only that, but the rocking chair in his apartment also starts rocking in the middle of the night, and sometimes, he wakes up to see a child with half of his skull missing rocking in it.

As the days wear on, his cats start acting weird, he ignores his boyfriend, and he starts to lose control of his senses. Adam’s experiences are all relatable regarding his reactions, but to be fair, not much happens.

The rocking chair bit gets old, the dashes of shadows in the hall don’t go anywhere, and the night terrors happen repeatedly, but nothing really lands anywhere close to frightening.

Because the script sort of gives away some of the ghost’s intentions during an opening scene, we kind of side with the ghost because Adam actually needs to make retribution for some things he’s done.

That said, as the ghost gets more violent, the dude doesn’t deserve to die, either.

Director John McPhail, who directed one of my favorite movies of recent years, Anna and the Apocalypse, gives us appealing characters but isn’t sure how to handle the build-up of suspense. The trio of screenwriters (Ellis, Evan Turner, and Mike Van Waes)  craft something out of “true events” that Ellis really didn’t get answers from, but it feels like a lot of ideas thrown together without any thought if it would really be scary or interesting. I always say that even if there is no explanation for supernatural events, seeing the actual true story is still the most effective and intriguing way to go. Making stuff up to prop up the facts takes you out of the story.

Actual photo of the ghost of David

The film is watchable because Prew is enjoyable and believable to watch. He’s a talented actor I always like seeing on screen. I just wish he would be given better material for him to sink his teeth into. That doesn’t mean he’s ineffective here because his performance elevates the film when others might have sunk with it.

Dear David is based on a story that might be more interesting in its original form rather than the fictitious creation it has engendered. Watch it for Prew alone, but don’t expect to fear little ghost boys creeping into the corner of your room.

Dear David will be in theaters and on digital and VOD on October 13, 2022.

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Kevin is a long-time movie buff with a wide variety of tastes and fixations in the film world. He cried the moment Benji appeared onscreen in “Benji,” and it took him about four times to finally watch “The Exorcist” (at age 24) without passing out. “Star Wars: A New Hope” was the movie that changed everything and when his obsession with films and filmmaking began. A screenwriter himself (one long-ago horror script sale to New Line remains on a shelf), his first film "Two Tickets to Paradise" that he co-wrote premiered in June 2022 on Hallmark. He is currently working on another for the iconic brand.

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