Come to Daddy, 2019.
Directed by Ant Timpson.
Starring Elijah Wood, Stephen McHattie, Martin Donovan and Michael Smiley.
A man in his thirties travels to a remote cabin to reconnect with his estranged father.
This year’s Frightfest begins as it means to go on with an intriguingly demented, expectation-shifting blackly comic thriller from first-time filmmaker, long-time producer Ant Timpson (The ABCs of Death, The Greasy Strangler).
How many movies have you ever seen in your life that begin with duelling quotes from William Shakespeare and Beyonce? It sets an hilariously iffy tone from the jump, and one which Timpson, alongside writer Toby Harvard (The Greasy Strangler), navigates with a graceful-grisly aplomb.
Speaking too much of Come to Daddy‘s plot would be criminal, but the story begins as the mustachioed, eccentric Norval (Elijah Wood) receives an unexpected invitation to visit his estranged father (Stephen McHattie) at his gorgeous cliff-side abode. As the two awkwardly reunite, however, it becomes clear that something isn’t quite what it seems.
To give the gist of this movie without saying anything at all, it is a film keen to genre-hop, and that it does with an uncommon litheness. Many potential sharp narrative left-turns are hinted at, but Timpson smartly commits fully to just a few of the possibilities, creating an unpredictable primary plot thread dangling through the entire story.
The rug is pulled out several times, indeed, whether an unexpected revelation as Norval and his pop try to one-up each other’s tall tales, or the more macabre, even gnarly circumstances that emerge later on.
It’s hardly a new trick for genre filmmakers to wrap grounded(ish) familial drama around heightened circumstances – just look around the rest of Frightfest for proof of that – yet it’s rare for it to achieve such a weird symbiosis of repellence and untoward sweetness. This only furthers the feeling that pretty much anything can happen – and that it does, frequently.
If Timpson’s precise direction and Harvard’s nimble script account for much of the pic’s success, they’re also blessed with a cast out in full support of the tricksy execution. Wood, who has proven himself a low-key master at playing deranged weirdos, adds another memorable one to the cachet, and his two-hander with the reliably grizzled, booze-soaked McHattie makes for compulsively uneasy viewing.
There are other fun bit-parts in play, too, though in the interest of preserving the surprises, the less said about them the better. Nevertheless, the follow-through is strong across the cast and crew, ensuring that the film’s beguiling cross-pollination of genres leads to a satisfying climax.
Ant Timpson’s directorial debut dishes up plentiful surprises and quite probably the best semen gag the horror genre has seen in ages.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.