The screen is black. Onto it appears a quote: ‘The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children’ – William Shakespeare. Beat. Another quote: ‘There’s no-one like my daddy’ – Beyoncé.
It’s a bold opening, and one that effectively sets the tone for a film so full of dark, offbeat humour as Come To Daddy.
The plot goes something like this: 30-something Norval (Elijah Wood) receives a letter from his estranged father and decides to take him up on the offer of a visit so the two can re-connect. After making his way to his father’s remote waterfront cabin, Norval gets more than he bargained for when his dad’s past misdeeds return to haunt them both…
Opening quotations aside, Come To Daddy begins with a classic horror set-up, with our protagonist leaving home and arriving in an isolated locale far away from everything and everyone he’s ever known. First-time director Ant Timpson creates an atmospheric and sinister opening, with shot after shot of Norval moving through wide and empty landscapes, moving further and further away from civilisation – and safety.
Timpson again makes use of his not-insubstantial experience of horror movies (he has taken the role of producer numerous times before moving into the director’s chair) later in the film, when Norval is left alone in the strange house and starts hearing unexplained noises. At this point, the story could go any way, and Timpson creates a tense and unsettling atmosphere for the audience as much as for his protagonist, letting us sit a while in uncomfortable uncertainty before we are given any indication of the direction in which the story is going to go. Despite the humour that has been present up to this point, the tense atmosphere makes it unclear whether this is to continue or whether the film will segue into more serious horror territory.
Thankfully it does not. When the violence breaks out it becomes clear that the film only intends to lean into the ridiculousness of its humour even as the content gets darker. Gory violence is followed by a laugh-out-loud joke, and it is startling in an offbeat and humorous way rather than jarring because Timpson ensures the over-the-top, darkly comedic tone of the film stays consistent throughout.
Wood makes a compelling lead, bringing an energy and intensity that is necessary for such a heightened film. Even better is Michael Smiley, who is wonderfully entertaining as the stupid, comic villain Jethro, both threatening and pathetic at the same time.
There’s nothing grand to Come To Daddy; no big ideas, no lofty pretentions. It’s a film with the sole intention of taking the audience on a thoroughly wild ride, and at that it wholly succeeds. Funny, thrilling, and totally unique, this is ninety minutes of wonderfully wacky fun.
Come To Daddy is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray.