If you think the scariest thing about TikTok is how it makes anyone older than 30 feel culturally ignorant, you’re in for a treat. The platform has its first horror movie under the tag @lostgirl_emerson, and it seems to have it all: horrifying noises, creepy dolls, and, of course, a goth girl dancing around her living room, unaware that a mysterious figure is reflected in her TV screen.
“The main character, Emerson, posts videos for a period of 10 days, documenting something she at first perceives to be supernatural, only to discover it’s something even more sinister,” director Jason Zada, who made the project with writer Nate Atkins, said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “It’s part of a larger storyworld that [we] developed for a feature film that is in pre-production, titled Janus.” That movie is produced by Steven Schneider of Paranormal Activity, Insidious, and Split fame and will begin filming in February. The project also has an Instagram and an Etsy shop where you can buy the aforementioned creepy dolls — if you dare.
Zada and Atkins were previously behind the viral Facebook App Take This Lollipop, which launched in 2011. The app took the user’s personal information and made them the protagonist of a horror movie — and the victim of a stalker.
“The first film experience played on the very real growing concern about data security that for years had been splashed endlessly across major news headlines,” Zada previously told Rolling Stone. “Lollipop codified a collective feeling about what could happen if personal data got into a stalker’s hands.”
“Audiences loved it. Facebook, didn’t. Their lawyers called,” Zada added. “Every major press outlet called. The website saw hundreds of millions of visitors, and the film received billions of media impressions. More than that, it left an indelible mark on our collective sense of security online.”
In 2020, Zada launched a follow-up, Take This Lollipop 2, a kind of immersive version of the horror movie Host where the user enters a Zoom chat only to watch each member be taken out by the stalker from the original app. “AI and deep fakes are so powerful now. Presidents, celebrities, and athletes have been deep faked,” Zada said. “The first Lollipop warned people of the dangers of sharing personal information online. Now we want to show the world how someone can actually become you.”
The TikTok horror flick follows in the footsteps of the 2006 YouTube horror series Lonelygirl15, which was presented as the real video blog of a homeschooled girl whose parents are part of a blood cult. And then there’s Dear David, a viral Twitter thread about a host child by illustrator Adam Ellis that’s currently being made into a movie. (Ellis has never really copped to the story being fictional.)