'I can't find anything about this movie': Why are people talking about a fake 1987 horror film on TikTok?

'I can't find anything about this movie': Why are people talking about a fake 1987 horror film on TikTok?
  • Zepotha is a 1987 horror movie and TikTokers are referencing it in video comments all over the app.

  • It was first talked about by 18-year-old musician Emily Jeffri, who posted a video about it on Aug. 12.

  • The big twist? The movie doesn’t exist.

What is ‘Zepotha’?

Zepotha is supposed to be a horror movie from the ’80s. TikTok user Emily Jeffri posted over the weekend about coming up with a “new bit” where TikTok users comment references to Zepotha on other people’s videos.

“Together we will witness new lore develop, main characters will emerge, etc. & we can convince thousands of people that this weirdly titled 80s horror film actually exists,” she explained.

The video now has over 6 million views and Jeffri has since posted follow-ups — including ones that play along with the bit, like pretending people tell her she looks like the main character and even filming in front of a fake Wikipedia page.

How did ‘Zethopa’ become so big on TikTok?

Thousands of people took Jeffri’s initial instructions seriously and started commenting on other people’s videos. Influencer Alyssa McKay, who has more than 10 million followers, filmed a video asking her audience what the movie was about because she kept getting comments about it.

“I keep getting comments on all of my TikToks of people saying, ‘You look like Ray from Zethopa,’ or ‘You look like Frankie from Zethopa,‘” she said in the clip. “Why is it when I look up this movie there’s no pictures, I can’t find the cast, I can’t find anything about this movie?”

Asking about Zepotha doesn’t guarantee an explanation either. Another TikToker asked their following, “What the f*** is Zepotha and why is all over my feed?” and the comments are flooded with, “YOUVE NEVER SEEN ZEPOTHA WHATT.”

Others started “cosplaying” as characters from the movie too.

Some referenced “rewatching scenes.”

And a few creators even made fan art.

Still, ‘Zepotha’ is not a real movie

Zepotha is simply an inside joke on TikTok. It’s not an actual movie from 1987.

It’s also not the first time social media has gone all in on building a fake universe for a movie that doesn’t exist. In late 2022, Tumblr users convinced the masses that Martin Scorsese had a “lost film” from 1973 called Goncharov. Like with Zepotha, Goncharov eventually led to people creating fake movie posters, writing fake metanalyses of the plot, posting fake screencaps from the movie and sharing fake Letterboxd reviews.

“It’s creating some sort of wide-scale fan fiction,” Jamie Cohen, a media studies professor at CUNY Queens College, told the Washington Post at the time. “Almost with the idea of manifesting a movie into reality. At the same time, it’s also a bit of a collective joke or prank.”

Some people think Zepotha was a marketing tactic all along to advertise creator Jeffri’s upcoming album. The music she uses in the background of the first Zepotha TikTok is one of her songs, and one Twitter user noticed that the song was featured in almost 7,000 videos on Aug. 13 — the same day Jeffri posted about Zepotha.

Jeffri is now advertising a Zepotha soundtrack on her TikTok too.

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