Director: Ant Timpson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Stephen McHattie, Michael Smiley, Madeleine Sami, Martin Donovan
Words – Nathan Scatcherd
Come to Daddy is a nasty little film. A grimy, bloody, off-kilter thriller with moments of pitch black comedy, anchored by a central performance from Elijah Wood as a man who goes to a mysterious secluded cabin, apparently to reconnect with his estranged dad. There are immediate signs upon his arrival that something is a bit ‘off’ with the whole setup, and when things quickly take a dark turn, the film descends into a gory, sporadically funny tale of sons and fathers, secrets and lies; as well as the… unsanitary use of a pen.
The film has a strangely meandering tone, wavering from melancholy sincerity to shock laughs to extreme violence, but all of it is helped along by a great central performance from Elijah Wood. His awkward, nervous thirty-something hipster DJ/songwriter wannabe, Norval, is caught completely off guard and stumbles, believably bewildered and terrified, throughout what turns out to be a very long night of simply trying to talk to his dad.
The moments of tension and threat between him and Stephen McHattie’s deadbeat daddy play well, with the whiplashing between brutality and levity becoming only truly distracting as the film goes on, until a third act in which it runs out of steam despite a game performance from the very reliable Michael Smiley as a truly repulsive villain. Once the film has dispensed with most of its mysteries and twists fairly early on, it settles into a fairly predictable blend of mean humour, garnished with deliberately prolonged and bloody violence, and a streak of wistful sentimentality.
Perhaps destined to become a minor cult hit due to its oddly mannered tone and escalating violent chaos, Come to Daddy has a grungy, transgressive, low-brow sensibility which will surely appeal to midnight movie fans of gore and black humour. On a visceral level there are moments here that do work; moments which achieve that golden combination of wincing and smiling simultaneously. But the film struggles to carry off its vacillating oddball tone and its paper thin plot starts to become noticeable as the film slowly runs out of ideas on where to go next.