Come to Daddy is the directorial debut of one Ant Timpson, the super-producer behind some of the coolest horror movies of the last few years, including The Greasy Strangler, Housebound, and Turbo Kid. If you were wondering what someone who chose to get behind those kinds of flicks would do if given the chance to take the reins himself, well, Come to Daddy is the answer.
Elijah Wood stars as Norval, a pretentious L.A. hipster who, when he’s introduced traipsing through the woods, is wearing boots, a wide-brim hat, and cardigan for the occasion (his thumbnails are painted black too, but only those, which is a funny little touch). Arriving at the isolated beachfront home of his estranged father, Gordon (Stephen McHattie), Norval is disturbed to find a less than warm welcome.
Something is off, but it’s not immediately clear what. Timpson, working with his own idea and from a script by Greasy Strangler writer Toby Harvard, initially appears to be front-loading all the action when an unexpected death leaves Norval dealing with a corpse whose body-bag won’t stay zipped up and a potential paramour who isn’t exactly charmed by his drunken ramblings. The interactions between father and son are charged with resentment, but Norval remains desperate for a connection, and for answers about why he’s been summoned in the first place.
To put it mildly, Come to Daddy doesn’t go at all where you’re imagining it will, flirting with elements of crime thriller, dark comedy (emphasis on dark), and plenty more besides. It’s odd, arch, and art-house, but not at all pretentious – kind of how Norval imagines himself to be, only it’s actually cool. As the situation gets increasingly weirder, the violence increases to a surprisingly grisly extent. It’s schlocky and over the top, never mean-spirited or cruel, but gore-hounds will not be disappointed.
The role of Norval was written with Wood in mind, and it’s great to see the world’s most famous little weirdo actually being allowed to be a little weirdo for once. From reading Celestine Prophecy in the bathtub, to sniffing his father’s clothes, the actor who’s still perhaps most well known for Lord of the Rings (but who, for horror fans, will always be the nerd from The Faculty and the brilliant Maniac remake) is 100 percent committed. He looks like a complete twat, and acts even worse, but we still love him.
Come to Daddy‘s other ace card is the incomparable Michael Smiley. Here, the Northern Irish actor gets to play one of those slimy bad guys only he can play, but with a ridiculous wig (Smiley is clearly enjoying wearing it, proudly tossing it like he’s on Drag Race) and the unexplained name Jericho. The great man is clearly having a ball, his past life as a jobbing comedian clear in moments like when he brandishes a flaming crossbow or tells a hooker she should start wearing deodorant.
He gets some of the best lines, but this is a very funny film overall. Early on, Gordon tells Norval he has no idea what’s really going on before quickly switching gears to accuse him of “stuffing rats up your vagina.” The wannabe music mogul brags about his limited edition gold phone, which was designed by Lorde (is it terrible this actually sounds like a genuine product?), before it’s mercilessly broken in front of his eyes, laying out how attached Norval is to his carefully-curated image.
Most of the action takes place at Gordon’s house, a terrific location that surely must boast the most insane real-life inhabitant, if indeed it is an actual home. Its strange floor-plan makes no sense until it suddenly does in a horrifyingly brilliant reveal. When the story moves away, there’s a sense that it’s about to sag but Timpson keeps things moving along at a fine clip, injecting each beautifully shot, and richly textured, sequence with darkly sinister intent even when everything goes completely insane.
Come to Daddy is full of surprises right from the outset with two quotes presented, one from Shakespeare, the other Beyonce. At its core, however, this is a twisted, and surprisingly sweet, story of father-son bonding. Impressively, first-timer Timpson keeps a tight hold on the disparate elements so the film feels like a cohesive whole rather than a succession of bizarre skits. This is thanks in large part to Wood’s peerless performance and the brilliant Smiley, who almost runs away with the film, as his antagonist.
It’s a testament to all involved that this feels like a showcase not for any one person, but for everybody involved, which makes sense given Timpson’s lengthy career as a producer. On this evidence, however, he should definitely continue down the directorial path – who knows what kind of dark delights await us next time he heads behind the camera?
WICKED RATING: 8/10
Director(s): Ant Timpson
Writer(s): Toby Harvard, Ant Timpson
Stars: Elijah Wood, Michael Smiley, Stephen McHattie, Martin Donovan
Release date: TBC
Studio/Production Company: Firefly Films
Run Time: 93 minutes