Fantastic Fest Review: COME TO DADDY Is A Relentlessly Intense, Ever-Evolving Thriller
Come to Daddy is the directorial debut of acclaimed producer Ant Timpson (The ABCs of Death 1 & 2, The Greasy Strangler, Deathgasm), and it is sure to take audiences on a topsy-turvy thrill ride. This darkly comedic thriller ventures into some very unexpected terrain, but underneath it all rests a deeply human story that’s as resonate as it is invigorating.
Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood), a privileged man-child arrives at the beautiful and remote coastal cabin of his estranged father. He quickly discovers that not only is dad a jerk, but he also has a shady past that is rushing to catch up with both of them. Now, hundreds of miles from his cushy comfort zone, Norval must battle with demons, both real and perceived, in order to reconnect with a father he barely knows.
Come to Daddy opens with two quotes about fathers; one from William Shakespeare (“The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.”), the other from Beyoncé (“There is no one else like my daddy.”). It sets the tone immediately, letting you know that you’re about to get something a bit classical but with a contemporary bend, and it’s the first real indication that there’s a lot of surprises in store. What begins as a chamber piece about a family reunion between a father and son soon gives way into an ever-evolving mixtape of genre’s greatest hits full of exhilarating treats. But no matter what shape it takes — whether it be a ghost story, home invasion or revenge thriller — Come to Daddy always returns to the human elements that beat at its center.
As soon as we see Norval stepping off a bus in the wildery middle of no where, we know he’s not from around here. His hipster look inspired by Tokyo fashion is a sharp contrast to the remote Oregon surroundings that seem to swallow him up. He’s very clearly a fish out of water, and he’s been beckoned to his father’s house — which Norval calls “a UFO from the 1960s” — for reasons he (and the viewer) have yet to truly understand. The 25 plus years of separation give Norval and his father plenty to catch up on, and with each conversation the two share, we are given a new piece to the film’s puzzle, which cause is to lean further and further in. And then, it pulls the rug out from underneath everything, and takes you on a bonkers ride.
The emotional potency at its core is rivaled by the relentless intensity of its constantly morphing narrative progression. Timpson and screenwriter Tom Harvard do a fantastic job of setting up the characters and its central mysteries, fleshing them out and building them up before turning everything on its head. The plot grows thicker at every turn, coagulating into a beast that will have you hanging on the edge of your seat. The more it leans into a revenge thriller, the more it starts to fizzle. Events come to a slightly disappointing and odd head, which gives way to its sweetly touching final moments.
Timpson has done a terrific job here of creating a delightfully raw experience that harks back to the gritty, character-driven thrillers from the 1970s. He establishes a solid sense of atmosphere filled with a looming dread, while maintaining an equilibrium between the film’s emotional honesty and its darkly comedic violence. The cinematography from Daniel Katz leverages all the strengths of its coastal surroundings and gives us some truly breathtaking vistas to bask in. Elijah Wood is as good as you’d expected, and he imbues Norval with a grounded humanity, which is lacking in some of the later performances. The film relies substantially on Wood’s performance, and he doesn’t disappoint here, striking a nice balance between Norval’s eccentricities and his humanity. The fantastic supporting cast, including Stephen McHattie, Michael Smiley, and Martin Donovan give the film some added spice that doesn’t always match the tone the film is dishing out.
The evolution of the narrative’s bendy road feels natural, but it isn’t without its moments of turbulence. Some aspects and pieces don’t always gell, and there’s a period where Norval’s needs get obscured by the film’s overpowering revenge plot, but for the most part though, it glides in and out of different genres with ease, providing plenty of delightfully unimaginable twists. It does wonders with its small story and is never anything short of entertaining; however, its relentlessly dark intensity is sometimes a bit too much to handle, as it often does not allow you much time to breathe. Regardless, it’s a cinematic ride worth taking. Go in blind, and surrender fully.
Recommendation: If you love a lot of bends and twists and are a fan of 70s genre cinema, you’ll find a lot to love about this ever-evolving thriller.
Rating: 3.5 raisin eyes outta 5.
What do you think? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!