'Come To Daddy' Movie Review: Bloody Father Fights Buoy This Eccentric Thriller

Come to Daddy begins with a simple premise: Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood) has come to see his estranged father after receiving a mysterious letter. Drinking away his days in a UFO-shaped house on a rocky coast, Gordon (Stephen McHattie) takes an instant loathing to the young man, throwing rocks at Norval's head, mocking his problems with alcohol and finally assaulting Norval with a stream of obscenities. ("You'll get lost in the woods and die, and they'll find a rat skeleton in your pelvic bone," he tells his prodigal son.)

But Gordon and Norval's relationship is more than a father-son reunion, as Norval uncovers secrets in the house and hides from the mysterious men who are stalking the property. It gets bloody from there.

Pitted against a gantlet of filicidal attention, Norval matches deranged father figures with an aggrieved poser energy that turns upside down what would otherwise be a familiar Wood character—perplexed, vexed and swept up by forces larger than himself. But instead of rising to the occasion, Wood embraces everything that's pathetic in Norval.

Elijah Wood as Norval Greenwood in "Come to Daddy." Saban Films

"Do I DJ? Yes. Do I produce blazing beats? Yes. Do I tinkle the ivories? Yes. Do I promote high-profile events pertaining to music and the performance of music? Yes," Norval says, making an early run at the most nauseating (in a good way!) line delivery of the new decade. "I'm close to some pretty big names; substantial names, actually. I count Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper among my closest allies."

With his club kid clothes, gold cellphone, Asian-character tattoos and phony celebrity stories, Norval is both loathsome and pitiable, which makes seeing him absorb punishment as much fun as watching him dole it out.

By its end, Come to Daddy will show Saran Wrap, grilling utensils, a receipt spike and a very poopy pen being wielded in imaginatively grotesque ways. But while the movie's threats are capable of projecting genuine menace—especially from McHattie and Michael Smiley as the gloriously permed Jethro—Come to Daddy prefers to knowingly undercut itself, pulling back for banter even in its most high-stakes moments.

Norval finds dark secrets in his father's house. Saban Films

"Tell her I love her," Norval asks Jethro to tell his mother, making what he believes is his last request.

Jethro giggles. "I'm going to specifically tell her that you don't love her!" he says.

The film is the directorial debut of producer Ant Timpson, and it's easy to see in it the influence of his previous collaborations. The movie's balance of scatological humor, a gory aesthetic and love for neon light and terrible haircuts situates it somewhere in a constellation with The Greasy Strangler, Housebound and the gonzo horror medleys of Timpson's ABCs of Death anthology series.

For fans of Timpson and Friends' corner of the horror universe, Come to Daddy is like ice cream. It's psychotronic comfort food that may never reach the hallucinatory heights of Mandy (2018) or this year's Color Out of Space (both produced by Wood's SpectreVision), but never aims to. For everyone else, Come to Daddy might be a little harder to grasp: It's a family drama with characters too alienating for emotional rapport and a comedy that's more gently absurd than funny. But for anyone who can suppress the urge to gag, Come to Daddy's enthusiasm can be catching.

Directed by Ant Timpson, from a script by Toby Harvard, Come to Daddy is now in select theaters and available to rent on streaming services.