Elijah Wood, Stephen McHattie and Michael Smiley headline FrightFest 2019 first night movie, Come To Daddy – and here’s our review.

Review by Matt Edwards.

Come to Daddy opens with quotes laid out on the screen. One from Shakespeare, one from Beyoncé. I don’t think it’s reasonable that a film should open with that combination of quotes and then we’re just expected to write a review of that film in a way that makes sense to you as a reader. That’s not what the English language was built for.

Then, Come to Daddy turns out to be pitched as something along the lines of Swiss Army Man going through a cocaine phase and watching Hostel on repeat. This reviewer felt ready to pack up his things and go to bed.

Elijah Wood, whose moustache is remarkable, plays Norval, a young man hoping to reconcile with his estranged father. An uncomfortable attempt at bonding soon turns unpleasant, as confrontation and dishonesty sour the mood. Then things start to get odd, and the whole film charges off into a narrative wilderness that you either keep up with or get lost in.

For a film that seems to be about a father and son making a connection, Come to Daddy drags you about as far away from the story you expected as it can. Yet, even after it has descended into a chaotic and bloody hell, the theme remains the same. This is a film about male bonding, and about a father who has passed along a lot of anger and violence to his son, even in absence.

The cast are all good, but Elijah Wood in particular is brilliant. In a role that could go either way, Wood gives you a lot with a little, playing the role small, straight and contained, as the movie around him stretches out in all sorts of unexpected directions. You just get so much character from him, his Norval desperate and anxious.

Then there’s a wonderful, deranged turn from Michael Smiley, who turns up looking like he’s just come off stage from a pub gig with an 80s funk band that never gave up the game. Michael Smiley is a boost for any film and his manic and creepy performance in Come to Daddy will be the highlight for many viewers.

Where the film struggles, though, is in keeping a balance. Come to Daddy is a film with some strange and unexpected story changes, and dancing between those twists with its off-kilter tone and black comedy serves to create an experience that can be disorienting. There are times when it’s exhilarating to try to keep up with it, but at points it’s also exhausting and frustrating.

From a story point of view it does make sense. It’s quickly established that Wood’s Norval is a recovering alcoholic, while his father demonstrates a similarly difficult relationship with drinking. At a story point I’ll not give away, following a very airy and quite dull 15 minute segment, reality starts to fall away and the story becomes unsteady on its feet. It feels booze soaked an unreliable. It’s a really interesting idea, but one that doesn’t quite translate on the screen.

This reviewer found the movie less fun to watch than to pick at afterwards.

Come to Daddy, then, is a bold, intelligent and at times strikingly violent horror thriller. It’s a bit too chaotic for its own good though, and frustrates as often as it delights.

Come To Daddy is expected to be more widely released in 2020. Find more on this year’s FrightFest here