Monday, 2 March 2020

COME TO DADDY review

After a successful festival run including last year's Frightfest in London, Ant Timpson's Come to Daddy now arrives on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD on the "Frightfest presents..." label. Elijah Wood stars as Norval Greenwood, a self-described music exec and wannabe influencer who, after receiving a letter from his estranger father, travels to his remote shorefront house in the hope of reconnecting with him. However, instead of being welcomed with open arms, he finds his father (Pontypool's Stephen McHattie) to be a cantankerous old drunk who can barely hide his distain for him.


Norval arrives at his father's house dressed like a Shoreditch hipster with a haircut and moustache combo that's hard to understand, wearing an oversized hat and carrying a limited edition gold iPhone designed by Lorde (that he promptly loses into the sea). Despite his efforts to sell himself as a success and impress his father with claims of knowing Elton John, shot down in flames by a deliciously spiteful turn from McHattie, Norval is a loser, but a likeable one. There's a combative nature to these early scenes of two men trying to finds common ground between each other; like the Lighthouse but with added Nathan Barley. McHattie often plays men who are skirting between good and evil, but here he's playing an absolute bastard who's relishing the opportunity to knock the posturing Norval down a peg or two. So, I hear you ask, why would Norval's father invite him all this way just to abuse him? Well...

As Norval starts to lift the lid on family secrets and character's real intentions, the film completely flips itself from a tense two-person family drama into something a lot darker, seedier and blackly funny. More characters are introduced to the story, notably Michael Smiley's Jethro with his unique take on inflicting violence, causing Wood's Norval to react in kind to incoming threats, including a brutal attack on someone's groin that will have you wincing as you cross your legs. The violence is both graphic and hilarious, meaning you'll feel their pain, but laugh about it too and be thankful it wasn't you.

As surprising a fact it may be, over the last few years Elijah Wood has become one of the strongest voices in modern horror and genre cinema as part of the SpectreVision production company that he is a co-founder of. Although this isn't a SpectreVision release, it might as well be, occupying the same colourful, anarchic space as The Greasy Strangler, Mandy and this year's Daniel Isn't Real. In fact, Come to Daddy sees Wood re-teaming with one of his producing partners for The Greasy Strangler, Ant Timpson, here making his feature film directorial debut with a story that, bizarrely, has some basis on his real life experience with his father. It's a great debut that fans of Timpson's filmography as producer will adore, delivering his grisly comic sensibilities in a story that's impossible to second guess what direction it's going in.

Come to Daddy is an odd beast that is hard to categorise without revealing too much. Yes, it's a black comedy, but one with a real heart to it. It's hard not to feel for Norval, who, despite his hipster braggadocio, just wants to find a real connection with his father. A lot of this is due to the incredibly uninhibited performance from Wood, with his permanently bewildered eyes reminding us how great a screen presence he is. The weight of the film is on Wood's shoulders as he's in virtually every frame of the film, but that's not to discount some deliciously deranged turns from the supporting cast.

Worth tracking down and making a new connection with, Come to Daddy is not one to watch with all the family... unless you've got one seriously messed up family.

Verdict
4/5



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