Let me be perfectly honest. I don’t know how to review Come to Daddy. It’s not that the Tribeca Film Festival selection directed by Ant Timpson isn’t good, quite the opposite. Watching Come to Daddy moved me, scared me, grossed me out and delighted me more than anything I’ve watched in theaters this year. No, I’m not sure how to review this movie because it was just so different from anything I’ve seen in recent memory. I’m going to give it my best shot, but I promise it will not do this movie justice. In fact, I don’t know that any review you read of Come to Daddy will. So if you finish my take and this movie sounds like something you’re into, make it a priority to seek this movie out. You will not regret it.
“..Come to Daddy moved me, scared me, grossed me out and delighted me more than anything I’ve watched in theaters this year.”
Come to Daddy begins with protagonist Norval (Elijah Wood) journeying to a beachside house for a very personal reason. After thirty years of being absent from his life, Norval‘s father has written to him, requesting that he come to his remote home to visit. Wanting answers and a potential relationship, Norval travels to the location his father gave him. From the second Norval gets to his dad’s house, things are tense and just a little bit creepy. That creepiness only gets worse as Norval‘s father (Stephen McHattie) starts sharing his personality with his son, revealing signs of a dark and deeply disturbed man. Slowly, Norval begins to realize that his hopes of finding a father figure aren’t just misplaced, they may have put him in some very real danger.
If you think you got a sense of this film from the premise I just gave you, let me assure you of this: you did not. This movie’s plot moves and shifts and flies like a spaceship reentering orbit, if that spaceship also had a nightclub and haunted house attraction inside. The status quo of this film changes in the blink of an eye, but what’s so impressive is that nothing that happens feels unnatural. It may go to crazy places, but it gets there on the back of solid character choices. The only thing weirder than seeing some of what these characters do here is realizing that you can totally relate.
And those characters really are the glue that holds together this mad science experiment of a movie. Elijah Wood perfectly conveys the horror and humor of the movie as Norval, who director Ant Timpson described as “a stranger in a strange land” at a Q&A following the premiere. There’s no better way to say it than that. He’s a neurotic, confused and kind of sad weirdo, not your usual protagonist. The dynamic between him and Stephen McHattie, who’s both self-confident and menacing as Norval‘s father, was incredible. Watching them interact was like hearing the creaking of a bridge about to break. Other fantastic performances come from Michael Smiley, Garfield Wilson and more, but I can’t tell you much about their characters without giving away some huge spoilers. Trust me when I say, though, that this cast is truly memorable, and in a movie with so many memories (scars?) to give you, that’s saying something.
Complimenting these performances are memorable, truly outstanding visuals. From the design of the main antagonist to Norval himself, the costumers and hair/makeup departments created icons to set this film’s stage. It would not surprise me at all to see one or two Halloween costumes pop out of this movie, especially for the film buffs among us. The scenery too is just perfect for the tone of the movie, alluringly beautiful when we first see Norval’s dad’s house then grungy and dangerous as we move to other isolated places. And the special effects… well, let’s talk about the special effects.
I know that I’ve been telling you this movie is a wild thrill ride, but don’t let the idea of fun distract you from the fact that this movie is absolutely brutal. And it’s the special effects, the gore that goes into this film, that makes it so. Here at Nightmare on Film Street, our readers are probably more tolerant of gross-out body horror than the average crowd. Even so, I would caution you to go into this movie knowing you’ll be disgusted. Sometimes you’ll be simultaneously laughing at what I think is some of the darkest slapstick comedy in recent memory, but you’ll be disgusted nonetheless.
I could spend another couple thousand words going on about what else I loved about Come to Daddy. But since you are probably getting sick of me, let me sum it up with this: This movie flew in the face of every term you can use to describe it. It’s a crime thriller that has none of the usual crime thriller beats. It’s a family story with a much weirder father/son team than we’ve ever seen before. And it’s a horror movie, but the lines between monster and victim are seriously blurred. Wherever Come to Daddy eventually shows up, whether that’s in theaters or on a streaming service, please seek it out. If you ever find yourself thinking that all of moviemaking today is just rehashing other ideas, you should let Come to Daddy change your mind.
We’ve got a ton of other TriBeCa Film Festival coverage on the way at NOFS, so be sure to stick around and check it out. Once you do, let us know what you think on our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter pages. You’ll find plenty of grey reviews over there, including Jonathan DeHann’s look at the disturbing I Trapped the Devil and Mary Beth Andrews’s take on the weirdly witchy Hagazussa. For reviews like that, and for all your horror movie reviews, news, and interviews, keep lurking at Nightmare on Film Street.