Tofino looks good in Come to Daddy (though it’s playing Oregon). Elijah Wood does not. His smugly idiotic haircut and precious little moustache would be perfect for one of those angry Boomer memes on Facebook grousing about how there are no real men anymore. As it quickly turns out, Wood’s character Norval is not exactly his father’s son. And that turns out to be a big, increasingly bloody problem in the horror-comedy directorial debut of The Greasy Strangler and Deathgasm producer Ant Timpson.
We first meet Norval tramping through secluded Oregon wilderness to the house of the estranged father who abandoned him and his mother at age five. He has a letter from dad, one that seems conciliatory. He also has a ridiculous floppy hat that’s stolen by coastal winds the second he leaves the treeline. But when Brian (Stephen McHattie) opens the door, we get the sense that Norval’s better off without the hat anyway. Brian’s not the hat type. He’s mostly into guzzling booze, frying up chunks of raw meat, and telling stories about the time he kicked a man’s ear off in a fight.
But Norval sets up in the spare bedroom, and a series of awkward non-reconciliations begins. Brian is somewhere between terse and openly spiteful; when Norval mentions that he’s on the wagon, Brian immediately pours a glass of wine to the brim and gulps it down with a malicious twinkle in his eye. Norval, who Elijah Wood plays with a real sincerity that anchors a lot of the movie, is cautiously optimistic about getting through to his father. But he’s also a douche. (His one-of-twenty-in-the-world gold-plated phone, designed by Lorde, happily dies an early death.)
Richard Bates Jr. took a stab at the intergenerational horror-comedy last year with Tone-Deaf, which—by the time Robert Patrick was delivering his second sneering boomer monologue directly to camera—felt a little too on-the-nose for its own good. Come to Daddy’s strength is in keeping the audience on edge, not just about what the plot will do next, but about where the tone will go, too. That’s as much as a review should say. Maybe it’s enough to note that Come to Daddy becomes more and more of an acquired taste as it goes on, until we’re in the realm of shattered bones, erotic asphyxiation, and exposed human brain.
I might hesitate to recommend Come to Daddy to anyone outside the midnight movie crowd. It’s a unique little curiosity that knows its B-movie roots and pushes the right boundaries, and it’s made with a good, goofy style and a genuine zeal for its story. But this isn’t the tepid horror-comedy of mainstream efforts like Ready or Not or Happy Death Day. It’s got teeth (some of those get bashed out, too). For those going into a movie prepared for anything, though, Come to Daddy will almost certainly have something to offer.