- Directed by: Ant Timpson
- Written by: Toby Harvard
- Cast: Elijah Wood, Stephen McHattie, Martin Donovan, Michael Smiley
- Classification: 14A
- Run time: 93 minutes
It’s difficult to categorize a film such as Come to Daddy. A film I had to watch with my hands over my face at times. Part horror, suspense thriller and comedy, Come to Daddy gives us some very creative mutilation, plenty of second-hand embarrassment and laughs in a perfectly paced hour and a half.
Writer and director Ant Timpson’s extremely gory debut, Come to Daddy stars Elijah Wood as Norval. A skittish, sensitive, privileged Beverly Hills DJ, Norval is someone who most would so readily dislike. But following Wood’s streak of playing lovable weirdos, you can’t help but root for Norval and his quest to bond with his deadbeat dad.
Come to Daddy begins with Norval at the doorstep of his estranged father’s isolated home in rural Oregon. Still living with his mother, Norval has almost no memory of his father, but is eager to reconnect after receiving a mysterious, heartfelt letter inviting him for a visit. What can go wrong?
It’s hard to explain without spoiling, but Come to Daddy at times feels like watching two different films. Norval’s father Gordon is a nightmare who can barely tolerate him and berates him throughout their initial encounter, which Timpson expertly uses to build tension and mystery. Will they find common ground? Why is his dad such a jerk? From the beginning, we’re as confused as Norval. It’s uncertain exactly why Gordon decided to reach out after so long, something Norval repeatedly asks only to receive no real answer.
While Norval is increasingly frustrated with the situation and his father’s merciless cruelty, Timpson takes this as an opportunity to delve into his daddy issues. It’s hard to not sympathize with how deeply he wants this to be a beautiful reunion; he often calls his mom lying about how deeply unkind his father’s being. He even goes so far to invent stories to impress Gordon – only to be let down. Despite his father’s aggressive gaslighting, Norval is determined to make the best of a terrible situation.
The situation somehow gets increasingly worse, and again – it’s hard to truly explain without spoiling the best parts of the film – but Norval learns a whole lot about how his dad’s been spending his time since abandoning him and his mother. This is when the film makes its shift into some of the bloodier and gorier territory. Timpson does not hold back and his imagination clearly has no bounds when it comes to the various ways people can die or be wounded.
When Norval has to do a lot of things he’s not used to doing in what I assume is his daily life as a mama’s boy DJ, Timpson beautifully weaves in some personal growth and father-son bonding, while not getting too deep. He’s still peeved with his dad, and even more so when he figures out what’s going on, but his need to impress his dad and make him proud never truly goes away, leading to a few tender moments between father and son.
Come to Daddy never takes itself too seriously, which is a blessing. Timpson knows it’s not that deep but does enough to take the audience along for a real ride and emotionally invest in Norval’s journey. Providing both a tight script and interesting directing, and blending the best of indie horror with B-movie violence and gore, it’s exactly what it needs to be for both the audience and Norval.
Come to Daddy opens Friday in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa
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