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Lionsgate Movies/YouTube

Why the Twitter horror movie ‘Dear David’ is already controversial

Based on a viral Twitter thread from 2017, this ghost story has a lot of haters.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Posted on Jul 20, 2023

Joining the elite ranks of movies based on Twitter threads (hello Zola), the trailer for Dear David just dropped. Inspired by a series of viral tweets posted by cartoonist Adam Ellis 2017, it’s a horror story about Ellis being haunted by the ghost of a little boy.

Unlike Zola, however, most of the online reactions to Dear David are pretty negative.

In part, that’s because some longtime Twitter users objected to how Ellis told this story back in 2017.

At the time, Ellis presented his Dear David tweets as an account of real experiences, leading many readers to believe it was true. Meanwhile, others labeled it a hoax.

This kind of storytelling isn’t exactly new. War of the Worlds is the classic example, with some listeners supposedly believing the 1930s radio adaptation was real. Depending on your level of skepticism, every “based on a true story” supernatural horror movie is similarly fake. So it’s arguably a little silly to complain about Ellis’ ghost story being a “hoax.”

The other issue here is that Ellis has a lot of haters. Not through any particular fault of his own, but because haters are inevitable when you achieve a certain level of online fame.

(Even if you don’t recognize Ellis by name, you probably know his “let people enjoy things” comic/meme. Which is pretty divisive in itself.)

The real problem with the Dear David trailer

Amusingly, this movie leans into Ellis’s online status, fictionalizing him as a Buzzfeed cartoonist getting harassed on Twitter. So instead of reflecting the slow-burn creepiness of the original thread, the trailer gives airtime to Ellis’s trolls.

In real life those haters responded predictably, making fun of the trailer and digging up things they found annoying about Ellis in the past.

Ironically, while Dear David exists due to Twitter, the most unpopular element of this trailer is Twitter itself.

Back in 2017, Dear David‘s readers were genuinely invested in the eeriness of Ellis’s thread—especially the lumpy-headed design of David himself. It was a very effective haunted house story. But instead of being scary or atmospheric, this trailer seems more like a story about a guy Posting Through It—a concept that Dear David‘s Twitter audience finds inherently cringe.

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*First Published: Jul 20, 2023, 8:48 am CDT