When Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood) knocks on the door of a stilted beach house, you can tell he’s not getting quite the reception he’d expected. The long-haired, older man who answers (Stephen McHattie, "Pontypool") seems confused by this visitor, until Norval explains he is responding to the letter he’d received from the father who’d abandoned him thirty years earlier, now asking him to “Come to Daddy.”
Elijah Wood has really embraced the world of quirky independent horror since his high profile stint in “The Lord of the Rings,” having starred in such films as the 2012 “Maniac” remake and “Grand Piano” while also producing the likes of “Color Out of Space” via his SpectreVision label.
Director Ant Timpson (writer/producer "The ABCs of Death") makes his directorial debut with an idea sprung from the unusual circumstances surrounding his own father’s death (screenplay by “The Greasy Strangler’s” Toby Harvard). But while the film can be wedged into the horror genre, it’s more of a darkly comedic psychological thriller which, unfortunately, devolves into an ultra violent gross-out spectacle, almost entirely losing the father-son reunion story at its heart. Still, the production benefits greatly from its exceptional cast of famous faces and committed character actors as well as its perfectly unconventional location (the film was shot at a house on Vancouver Island).
While Brian’s (McHattie) gruff welcome is unsettling, one must admit that Norval himself is a pretty odd character. The thirty-five year-old wears a monk’s cut and moustache, still lives with his mother and is a self-satisfied DJ given to name dropping (Brian calls Norval’s bluff on knowing Elton John and wins). Admiring the ocean views from the home’s balcony, Norval gets nervous when dad attempts to take a selfie with his phone, informing him that it’s a limited edition real gold phone ‘designed by Lorde,’ only one of twenty. Of course it quickly ends up in the drink, Brian casually noting that ‘now there’s nineteen.’
Norval overhears strange things in the evening, like dad telling someone he doesn’t want to be ‘an f’in babysitter.’ Things get worse when the young man makes a stand for himself, demanding to know just why he’s made this journey, especially as the recovering alcoholic confronts the man when he’s drunk. Brian grabs a meat cleaver and Norval’s whole world is upended.
Timpson and Wood maintain our interest for quite some time, ably assisted by quirkily drawn supporting players Garfield Wilson, Madeleine Sami and “Kill List’s” Michael Smiley. We can even get by some of the initial over-the-top violence (feces smeared fountain pen stabbings, anyone?), but by the time we witness a violent self-defense murder involving toilet paper and plastic wrap, only the easiest to please genre fans may still be on board. Thankfully, Harvard’s script still has some sprinklings of wit involving a pair of swingers(!), but Martin Donovan, at least, deserved better.
Robin gives "Come to Daddy" a C+.
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