Michael Smiley is one of our greatest living actors. And by “our,” I do mean Irish people since he’s from the North and therefore belongs to us. Smiley isn’t really a horror guy, but he made an impression in The Hallow as the cop who ominously tells a terrified couple, “This isn’t London; things go bump in the night here.” No matter the role, Smiley infects it with his own irascible charm. He’s grumpy, sure, but he’s a lovable grump and always more than a little dodgy.
Come to Daddy, from Kiwi filmmaker and super-producer Ant Timpson, is a very different role for Smiley. As slimy crim Jethro, the beloved Northern Irish actor dons a crimped wig and leather trench-coat, strutting about the place like he’s on bleedin’ Drag Race. He has a wild time with the part, whether it’s intimidating poor Elijah Wood or chastising a hooker for neglecting to wear deodorant. Every time Smiley is onscreen, it’s pure magic.
Timpson actually knew the great man as a comedian first and foremost, having caught him live during a tour of New Zealand back in the day. Knowing that information makes Smiley’s performance in Come to Daddy even wilder. Timpson gets him to tap into another side of his repertoire that makes moments like when he’s stabbed in the head hilariously bizarre rather than outright scary. It’s the perfect role for him, and you’d never think of Smiley for it.
The Frightfest synopsis for the flick emphasizes why it was chosen to open the festival this year:
An urban hipster faces major daddy issues in a coastal Oregon town in a deliciously edgy stunner. 30-something Norval (a career best performance by Elijah Wood) receives a surprise invitation to visit his estranged father’s remote cliff house. Nervous and desperate to impress his uncaring dad, Norval stretches the truth about his life until finally his father’s growing animosity reaches a dark fever pitch. From here on, all genre-blending bets are off as this downright hilarious, inventively gross, shocking-to-the-extreme adventure with plenty of twists, turns and lots of creative weaponry moves smartly towards its most uncompromising and unexpected finale.
Come to Daddy is the directorial debut of Timpson, a super-producer responsible for the likes of The Greasy Strangler, Turbo Kid, and Deathgasm, among many others. Timpson co-wrote the script with Toby Harvard, who also co-wrote Strangler. Elijah Wood stars alongside Smiley, Stephen McHattie, and Martin Donovan.
Wicked Horror tussled with the incorrigible, one and only, Michael f*****g Smiley on the red carpet at Frightfest 2019. We mostly discussed Derry Girls, after he gave me the finger.
Interview conducted by: Joey Keogh
Camera: Richard Waters
Editing: Richard Waters