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Viral Horror Story ‘Dear David’ Will Haunt Cinema Screens Thanks to New Line

We break down exactly what makes this particular eerie viral story perfect for the big screen.
New Line Cinema
By  · Published on November 5th, 2018

Creepy children are a dime a dozen in horror films. Scary movies are often on the quest to inspire fear in audiences over a specific demographic that we’re taught to nurture and trust. The perception of the susceptibility and innocence of children is easy to exploit when something unusual, unknown, and unexplainable is afoot in the horror genre. Sometimes, these attempts work really well, too.

Regan in The Exorcist, Damien in The Omen, Carol Anne in Poltergeist, and the Grady Twins in The Shining are just a few examples of just how unsettling kids can be, whether they’re rattling off or keeping deadly silent. Now, thanks to some year-old viral Twitter threads, we may soon add another to the seemingly ever-growing list of spooky tots.

Collider dropped the news that a movie based on ex-BuzzFeed writer Adam Ellis‘ online account of Dear David has found a distributor in New Line Cinema. As previously reported by The Wrap, IT producer Dan Lin along with up-and-coming screenwriter Mike Van Waes — whose work will eventually be seen The Conjuring spin-off The Crooked Man as well as New Line’s untitled Wizard of Oz-inspired original film — have been attached to the project since June 2018. Van Waes and Evan Turner (Journey to the Center of the Earth) conceived of the film’s storyline together.

Dear David is a months-long anecdote that gained a significant amount of traction in late 2017 and early 2018 through social media. Via several lengthy Twitter threads, Ellis recounted his experiences of an alleged haunting in his apartment. The specter in question is the eponymous David, a dead child recognizable by his purportedly dented head. Evidently, if you ask the presence more than three questions in any capacity, this gives it license to kill.

A number of Ellis’ tweets attempt to describe and prove the occupation of an otherworldly being that’s causing a number of strange happenings in and around his abode. These occurrences involve Ellis’ dreams, his cats, numerous cameras (and other related recording apps), and ominous noises heard in a presumably empty crawl space above his living quarters. But as Dear David addictively unfolds, which can be read in full here, we eventually find out that there is more to the extent of these hauntings than initially anticipated.

Aside from any speculation about the realism behind these events, the Dear David phenomenon arguably presents the ideal premise for a psychological horror flick. This feels like a cross between the mundanity of everyday life and some creepypasta aesthetics, courtesy of that particularly unsettling image of a disfigured child. The story definitely takes advantage of a variety of eerie situations. Many Twitter users are quick to call out some kind of fakery with Ellis’ supposed photo and video evidence. However, reading about multiple recounts of sleep paralysis and oddly-behaving pets is enough to send shivers down spines. More uncanny incidences arise as well. The Dear David narrative is deeply psychological, making one’s own home and comforts feel terrifying and unsafe.

This all works because Ellis shows an exceptional knack for gripping storytelling. His retellings of this apparent paranormal activity are immaculately detailed with just enough proof for believers and skeptics to relish in. Furthermore, every Dear David episode is exceptionally well-paced. Each thread tends to begin with a description of real-life normalcy before unspooling into something bizarre that shakes up an already persistently discomfiting situation. Frankly, a whole anthology series could probably even logically ensue based on Dear David. Anybody would be terrified to encounter the different haunting habits of this not-so-friendly ghost. (If it even is an apparition… some Twitter responses say it’s a demon. So, that’s fun.)

Of course, instead we’re dealing with a big-screen feature; one that could potentially make top dollar considering the people behind it. Whatever story Van Waes and Turner have cooked up based on Ellis’ compositions would be magnified with New Line’s ability to name-drop a handful of huge horror properties in order to promote the movie.

Combined with Lin’s involvement, Dear David has tangible connections to the mega-hit Stephen King adaptation IT, Lights Out (which actually also originated from a viral online phenomenon), and various strands of The Conjuring cinematic universe. After respectively grossing $700.4 million, $148.9 million, and $1.567 billion (across five films) worldwide, these blockbusters consistently set the tone and monetary standard for mainstream horror. Having both a key producer and distributor of at the helm of the viral sensation that is Dear David is the way forward for adaptation success.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)