As the credits roll for Come to Daddy the first thing that comes on screen is a “Based on an idea” credit for director Ant Timpson. Those usually roll by when a screenplay is developed by a writer based on some story idea that came up in a discussion or pitch meeting but was never committed to paper by whomever came up with it. In the right hands a kernel of an idea can lead to something great so there’s really no telling whether or not a film that’s “based on an idea” will be good or bad.
In the case of Come to Daddy, however, it feels like the idea came out of someone’s mouth after a few drinks and little weed. A kind of “You ever seen a the back of a $20 bill… on weed?” thing. You know those ideas that you kind of blurt out and everyone agrees they’re awesome in the moment but nothing ever happens with it. Well, that’s the kind of idea that Come to Daddy is based on except someone somehow managed to make an entire movie about it. The issue is, those kind of ideas aren’t meant to actually happen.
Come to Daddy
Director: Ant Timpson
Release Date: February 7, 2020
A big part of Come to Daddy is playing with expectations. That “idea” I’m discussing is a pretty big spoiler for the film itself as it subverts what you think the movie is pretty dramatically. Norval Greenwood (Elijiah Wood), an awkwardly effeminate young man, receives a letter from his father, who abandoned him at age five, inviting him to reconnect at the remote house he lives in. Showing up at the house, Norval finds a grumpy older man who seems slightly off kilter. Something is just wrong but Norval, desperate to connect with his dad, sticks it out.
The premise, especially coming from a horror guy like Ant Timpson, seems to be setting up a classic show down between a psychopathic, serial killer dad and his son. Then “the idea” enters the picture. It’s the kind of thought that goes, “Yea, but what if this happened instead!” For a few glorious moments in the film that twist of an idea seems wonderful. It really does. It’s bright and creative and takes the movie into a completely different genre than you were expecting. That ends quickly, though. The cold, hungover reality of this “idea” is that it has nowhere else to go or at least Timpson doesn’t really have anywhere to go with it. After the early reveal of the twist the film kind of flounders for the rest of its playing time, squandering its big “idea” into a mess of violence.
The movie is very clearly trying to play with horror/thriller tropes and cliches. Norval is a near parody of the slasher film’s classic effeminate male who either dies or becomes the hero when he mans the fuck up. It would be an interesting dive into the trope if it ever left the shallow end of the pool. The premise should allow for a real unpacking of this idea but nothing ever plays out well enough to do this. Instead you’re left with Norval in a sort of revenge thriller that never thrills.
This isn’t to say the movie can’t be fun. Before “the idea” hits the movie is parts dark and parts comedic. It’s a strong balance between the two that keeps the movie working better than it should but can’t carry it all the way. Humor pops up here and there in fantastic ways, emphasized by some fantastic gore and violence. It all feels like it’s in the name of nothing, though. The movie winding away on itself with nowhere to go.
Wood, who seems to be happily making a career of voice acting and making really weird movies/TV shows, is at some of his weirdest here. He’s perfect for the role as it switches winds its way into odd areas and, like the comedy, helps carry the movie farther than it should be able to go. Still, his character is a bit of a mess on the whole and there’s not much he can do to fix that.
Come to Daddy has an interesting premise. “The idea” is a definitely an idea. It just doesn’t actually know what to do with it. In this case an idea should have just stayed that or at least gestated a bit longer.