This is not an original thought, but there really is something fascinating about the fact that the stars of two of the biggest fantasy franchises of the modern era, Elijah Wood and Daniel Radcliffe, have taken their cultural cache, and the money they earned from the roles, to basically do whatever the hell they want. Radcliffe has been in a string of completely insane films, seemingly doing whatever makes him happy, since I’m sure he has enough money to never need to act again in his life, he’s just doing it for fun now. And, Elijah Wood has used whatever power he gained from starring in the Lord of the Rings films to chase whatever crazy passion project he has in his sights. He produces crazy horror movie, he founded a production company, and he just generally seems to be out there giving a chance to smaller, independent productions that would so easily get lost in the deafening impact of the major studio franchises. As a result I have found myself always on the lookout for whatever new project Radcliffe or Wood have cooking, figuring that at this point anything they attach their names to will be something full of passion. So, when I first started hearing about Come to Daddy, which seemed to simply be about Elijah Wood trapped in a home with his insane estranged father, I figured it would be something strange and something I needed to check out. And, I was right, because this is a really one of a kind movie.
The story follows a man named Norval Greenwood, an entitled hipster who lives in Beverly Hills with his mother, and who seems to be drifting through life after a failed suicide attempt, when he gets a surprising letter from his estranged father. His father David abandoned him and his mother when he was five, and it’s been thirty years since he’s seen him last. So, Norval decides to take him up on the offer, and heads out to David’s secluded cabin in the middle of Oregon. And, as soon as he gets there, he finds his father confused and aggressive. The two have an awkward couple of days together, full of his father constantly condescending towards him while refusing to talk about any of the emotional topics that Norval wants to tackle. And, while in a drunken rage, David attacks Norval, in the process having a fatal heart attack. Norval calls the police, and he ends up being forced to stay in the home for several days until his mother can get there and help deal with David’s estate, all while the body is kept in the house, embalmed, due to a problem at the morgue. Norval has a terrible time over the next few days, trapped with his father’s body, dealing with the terrifying isolation and an ominous banging that seems to be coming from somewhere deep in the house.
But, one day while lounging around, trying to keep his mind off the nightmare he’s living, Norval finds a hidden cupboard in the house containing a photo album. And, flipping through it, Norval makes a terrifying realization. The man whose corpse is in the house is not his father. Norval begins panicking, and starts investigating the house, following the ominous banging sound until he finds a hidden bunker in the house, which contains a chained and beaten man who turns out to actually be his father. It turns out that the real David was a career criminal, who kidnapped a rich man’s daughter in Thailand, and David fled with the money, cutting his three partners out of the loop. They then tracked him down, decades later, and have now been torturing him to get the money back, which was all used to keep Norval and his mother in comfort. David tells Norval to attack the ring-leader of the group, a man named Jethro, who is returning to the house. But, that doesn’t go well, and when Jethro finds the man who was pretending to be his father, Gordon, dead, he panics and heads out to get the other member of the group, Dandy. Norval is able to get David out of the house, forced to kill Dandy with his bare hands in the process. He and David attempt to flee, but Jethro returns, finding Norval’s suitcase and address in the process. So, David tells Norval that the only way to keep his mother safe is to track Jethro down and kill him too. So, Norval is forced to stow away in Jethro’s car, following him to a seedy motel where Jethro is planning to sleep with a prostitute. Norval sneaks his way into the hotel, and is promptly beaten and stabbed by Jethro, who flees into the night. But, he immediately gets in a car accident, which ends up killing him, letting a severely wounded Norval return to his equally wounded father. And, as they are both presumably bleeding out on the beach, Norval and his father have an emotional moment together.
Come to Daddy is a crazy movie. I really had no expectations going in, especially because while the trailer certainly promised a strange aesthetic, it didn’t really explain what the movie was about at all. And, when I actually sat down to watch the movie and found everything that was in the trailer was taken care of in the first third of the movie, it was a genuinely exciting experience having absolutely no idea where the story was going. And a spoiled hipster being forced to kill a series of eccentric international criminals in order to protect his globe-trotting criminal father who has been chained up underneath his cabin certainly wasn’t what I was expecting. The movie manages to walk an incredibly thin line between funny and thrilling, peppering some solid and awkward humor with some immensely tense and frightening moment. All centered around some shocking acts of violence, one in particular which elicited perhaps the biggest audience reaction I’ve ever seen in a movie theater. It’s a breakneck insane cartoon of a movie that pretty immediately grabs you and doesn’t let go for the entire run-time, full of an intangible dread that slowly grows until things absolutely explode into chaos.
But, at its heart, it’s really just a movie about how badly we all want closure in our lives. Norval clearly isn’t doing that great. He’s led a life where he seems to have everything given to him, except a relationship with his father, and as a result he’s been led down self-destructive paths, succumbing to alcoholism and an attempted suicide. So, when he sees the chance to finally speak with his father, to make sense of this one singular act that had such an insane ramification on his life, he goes for it. Yeah, he probably didn’t expect to find himself embroiled in a war against international kidnappers looking to torture and kill his father, but that’s just what he finds himself trapped in. And, in the face of that insanity, he continues to help his father, he kills two men, all to reach the point where he can talk to his father. And, after a night from hell, he gets the chance to talk to his father, admit that he thinks he ruined his mother’s chance at finding love after his father left, and attempts to get some sort of closure from the man who set him down this path. Because, these sort of emotional wounds will just be left to fester in us, and the only real way to fix them is to get it all out in the open, and seek the closure. Sometimes that takes a frank conversation that terrifies you, and sometimes it requires you stab a British man in the brain. That’s just life.
Come to Daddy was written by Toby Harvard, directed by Ant Timpson, and released by Saban Films, 2020.
Categories: Reel Talk