Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 30, 2020)
With ginormous eyes right out of a Keane painting and a cherubic face, Elijah Wood never seemed likely to earn leading man status. However, I didn’t anticipate that our favorite hobbit would eventually embrace horror.
With films like Maniac and Cooties under his fairly recent belt, that looks to be Wood’s path. He continues in this vein via 2020’s Come to Daddy.
30-something Norval Greenwood (Wood) struggles with alcohol dependency and he lives with his mother. His father Gordon (Stephen McHattie) abandoned them decades earlier, and Norval enjoyed no contact with his pops since then.
Out of the blue, Norval receives an invitation from Gordon to visit him in his lovely cabin on the coast. Norval dreams of a warm, loving visit with his long-lost dad, but the reunion takes a darker than expected turn.
Or plenty of unexpected turns, as it happens. After a first act that sticks mainly with psychological drama, Daddy shifts tones and gets weirder and more overtly violent.
Although I called Daddy a horror film earlier, it doesn’t follow a traditional genre path. While it certainly includes many horror-like elements, it also embraces other elements of thrillers and black comedy.
None of which it manages to depict in a convincing, organic manner. Daddy feels like a series of nutty plot twists and weird characters in search of a coherent movie.
Alas, it never finds that coherence, as it becomes a messy melange of odd moments and not much else. Alternately morose, silly, creepy and wacky, the film throws too much into the blender.
Perhaps a strong director could’ve held all this together, but Ant Timpson doesn’t seem to be that person. Rather than create a forceful identity for Daddy, Timpson cobbles together ideas from other filmmakers to give us a movie packed with influences and not much more.
For the first act, Daddy shows potential, mainly via the tense energy between Norval and Gordon. McHattie seems to channel Gary Cole’s Reese Bobby from Talladega Nights, and this creates an unsettling disconnect with Wood’s bottled-up take on Norval.
In particular, we wait for the other shoe to drop. We know a twist will come, and we find ourselves curious to discover that curveball.
Unfortunately, when the plot zinger arrives, it lacks the necessary impact. Oh, on paper, the movie’s twists sound appealing, but as depicted, they feel strangely toothless.
Before long, we find ourselves in a world packed with characters and scenes out of Coen and Tarantino movies. Nothing logical happens, as Daddy instead prefers gratuitous violence and self-consciously oddball personalities.
These fail to bring us a tale with substance or real intrigue. Instead, Daddy wanders down a goofy path that lacks satisfaction in the end.