April 26, 2019
by Carla Hay
Directed by Ant Timpson
World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 25, 2019.
Elijah Wood has been making a lot of eccentric indie films in the years since he starred in the blockbuster “The Lord of the Rings” movies. The extreme horror comedy “Come to Daddy” is his wackiest one so far—and it’s definitely not family-friendly entertainment. This review of “Come to Daddy” won’t contain any spoilers, but people should be warned that this movie is not for those who are easily offended or disturbed by bloody physical violence.
And what might be more unsettling to some people is that “Come to Daddy” has such a gleefully twisted sense of humor that people might find themselves laughing (with a degree of guilt) at some of the absurd things that are said in the movie’s torture scenes. Other people will not want to stick around for the rest of this deliberately nauseating ride; they might be so repulsed that they’ll stop watching the movie before it ends. (I saw plenty of both reactions at the screening I attended. I stayed until the bitter end.)
In “Come to Daddy,” Wood plays the emotionally stunted Norval, a recovering alcoholic and only child still living with his mother, who raised him as a single parent. Norval’s dad left the family when Norval was barely old enough to remember him. So when Norval gets a letter from his estranged father inviting Norval to visit him at his home, he goes out of curiosity and for a possible chance to reconnect with his father. Norval’s father lives in a secluded house near a body of water—it’s a familiar horror-movie device foreshadowing that things are not going to go well with this visit.
Needless to say, there are many twists and turns to the plot where secrets are revealed and people commit heinous acts on each other. “Come to Daddy,” the directorial debut of Ant Timpson, was written by Toby Harvard, who infuses the screenplay with so many over-the-top quips and dialogue, that the movie is not meant to be taken seriously as “torture porn.” This is the kind of movie where a sleazy criminal, after inflicting a lot of bloody mayhem, suddenly declares, “I’m outta here like Vladimir!” If John Waters directed a “Saw” movie, it would have a similar sensibility to “Come to Daddy.” As the central character, Wood carries the film with a campy touch, as Norval starts off with wide-eyed cluelessness until his family visit turns into a nightmare.
How much of a gross-out experience is the violence in “Come to Daddy”? Here’s a partial list of the extreme acts of torture that are in the movie, which isn’t content to show the usual barbarity that’s in a horror flick: Someone is stabbed with an excrement-covered pen. A man is slashed numerous times in the genital area. Someone’s head is covered in Saran wrap and then clubbed repeatedly. Someone’s mouth gets horizontally impaled by an arrow.
And here’s an example of the very dark humor in “Come to Daddy.” Someone who’s been kidnapped explains to another character how his captor gave him a choice of drinking his semen or having his ear cut off—and he chose to have his ear cut off because he was hungry and needed something to eat. The person who hears this story replies that the choice should have been to drink the semen because it contains a lot of protein.
You get the idea. And you might feel like taking a shower after seeing this movie.
UPDATE: Saban Films will release “Come to Daddy” in select U.S. cinemas, digital and VOD on February 7, 2020.