Turns out Come to Daddy isn’t the next video in your Pornhub cache, it’s actually the Auckland based Ant Timpson’s feature film debut. A debut that declares his appreciation for a vast range of cinema, from reflective indie examinations to grindhouse carnage. Timpson affectionately makes the movie he wants. If only the result wasn’t as scatterbrain.
We open to the Beverly Hills based Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood) trudging through a dense Oregon forest on his way to estranged father, Gordon’s (Stephen McHattie) secluded cabin. The don’t go in the woods trope lingers heavy and keeps you guessing just how and when this story will enter deadly territory.
The entire first act is especially intriguing while Norval, so set on building a relationship with a father that’s been vacant for thirty years of his life and is just now reaching out, ignores the treacherous nature that we can just taste in McHattie’s performance. Why would Gordon invite the son he abandoned to his secluded lake house only to treat him as an unwelcome smudge? Timpson relishes our played expectations. One moment you may have this one pegged as a man coming to terms with his remote dad narrative, the next maybe a quirky love drama between a hipster man-child and a blunt, small town coroner. But when the mystery’s put to rest and the gory mayhem takes off, the jarring curve this path takes feels like a let down.
Elija Wood, however, is anything but a letdown. Wood, much like Daniel Radcliffe, is determined to shed his fantasy epic stardom by jumping into obscure indie flavored rolls he’s passionate about, putting everything he’s got into Norval who, on paper, is the kind of superficial Hollywood d-bag you’d immediately stereotype. But with the fragile exterior that comes equipped with Wood, you find a well meaning person to get behind.
To its credit, Come to Daddy‘s heart never loses its center. The focus kept squarely on Norval’s self discovery by way of his twisted lineage to the very end. But the sudden third act genre shift takes the personable drama with a tinge of unsettling horror and abandons that grounded reality for one filled with pulpy caricatures and comedically unrealistic odds. This clashing new absurdist horror territory still hits a fair amount of its blood-soaked fun (an abruptly over the top performance from actor Michael Smiley is head scratching at first but earns a good laugh by his final scene). Unfortunately, none of that feels worthy of leaving behind what the movie starts out as, a quite confrontation on the expectations and realities of an inattentive father set to a beautiful lakeshore backdrop.
This one’s currently available to rent on streaming or at a finite amount of select theaters. Check it out if you ever wished to see Frodo confront daddy issues, dress up like a lady hobbit or become a bad-ass, blood-soaked metal hobbit.