COME TO DADDY (2019)
Directed by Ant Timpson
Written by Toby Harvard & Ant Timpson
Starring Elijah Wood, Stephen McHattie, Garfield Wilson, Madeleine Sami, Martin Donovan, Michael Smiley, Simon Chin, Ona Grauer, Ryan Beil, Oliver Wilson
Do we ever really know our parents? Sure, we live with them and get to know their personal quirks, their preferences and when you can and can’t get away from something, but for the most part, parents are simply playing a role that they believe to be as parents. When a parent is estranged or absent, the child often comes up with a fantasy world around what that person is like. And it’s rarely that the parent lives up to those expectations. That’s the main theme of COME TO DADDY, a graphic and twisted little gem that ends up giving a firm tug to the heartstrings by the time the film closes.
Quickly becoming one of the most powerful and important voices in horror, Elijah Wood plays Norval, a quirky young man who lives at home with his mother, is a recovering alcoholic, and a wannabe DJ. When Norval gets a letter from his father to come visit him after 30 years of being away from his life, Norval jumps at the opportunity, thinking that all of his problems are linked to his non-existent relationship with his father. When he arrives at a secluded cabin by a vast lake, Norval meets his father (played by Stephen McHattie) and finds him not to be the hero he dreamed of, but a hollow man, addicted to alcohol and god knows what else and a life of solitude and loneliness. His pop is more messed up than he expected and through Norval tries, he just can’t seem to figure out why his dad would reach out to him. The answers are complicated and takes Norval down a twisted road of violence and mayhem.
Wood plays another unique character here in Norval—a bowl-cut coiffed hipster who brandishes a gold phone designed by Lourde. The contrasts between the nomadic father and Norval makes for some of the most entertaining moments of the film. Seeing McHattie have fun with being the dirty old man is great as he looks like every bone in his thin frame creaks and groans, yet he still has the vibrance and sly wit that has become the actor’s trademark. This is very much a film about a boy trying his damnedest to become a man though he has no idea what that man is because he never had a role model for one. Wood is able to give his goofy looking appearance some soul and depth as he makes this quest clear through some exposition and the wide-eyed optimism, he looks at McHattie with. It is painful to watch Norval realize his father isn’t the hero he had hoped he was. In response, the gruffness of McHattie seems to cover up some real vulnerability. It’s a great push and pull these actors go through.
I want to be vague with the rest of the film as I think the fun is in experiencing the twists and turns that Norval’s quest for his father takes in the latter half of the film. Let’s just say some unexpected things happen and as a result, Norval is pushed into some pretty gnarly violence. Shit gets downright gruesome by the end as bodily fluids, exposed brains, broken fingers, stabbed cheeks, and all kinds of uber-gore occurs in the second part of COME TO DADDY. Expect some over the top, glorious gore that looks and feels original and unique.
Yet COME TO DADDY never loses sight of its main theme of the complexities of the relationships between father and son. There is some real heart to this film and Ant Timpson is able to communicate it clearly while wading through all that blood and gore. I laughed out loud quite a few times at the interactions between Wood and McHattie. Martin Campbell and KILL LIST’s Michael Smiley have standout roles as well full of comedic fodder. And there are more than a few fight scenes that use violence in ways that I’ve never seen before—both highlighting the comedic and the gruesome.
COME TO DADDY is an off-kilter horror comedy drenched in the red stuff yet possessing a strong beating heart. Anyone who has ever yearned to understand their parents will find themselves identifying with Wood’s wonky Norval character. It’s a universal feeling that filmmaker Timpson is able to convey with ease. Though it might have a sharp object poking into it causing it to spout blood in all directions, COME TO DADDY’s heart is healthy and powerful.