Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
A Father's Love Equates to Stuffing Rats in Your Non-Existent Vagina
After Come to Daddy opens with two very different quotes from two very different, yet still both artistic in their own right, individuals (William Shakespeare’s “The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children,” and Beyonce’s “There is no one else like my daddy.”), the first aspect of this film you should notice other than Elijah Wood’s unusual wardrobe and bang-less hairstyle is Karl Steven’s glorious musical score. Steven’s music helps the events that unfold throughout Come to Daddy feel all the more mysterious; this explosive jazz frenzy that intrigues and titillates. It’s just as diverse and impressive as JG Thirlwell’s beautifully calamitous orchestration for the outstanding Adult Swim cartoon known as The Venture Bros.
Norval (Wood) has traveled many miles to reconnect with a father who has been absent the majority of his life (played by Watchmen’s Stephen McHattie). It’s been 30 years since they last saw each other and Norval had attempted to live his own life until he received a letter from his father begging Norval to come out for a visit. Norval tries to understand his father, but he buries himself in alcohol and seems disinterested.
After a heated argument, Norval’s father tries to kill him but has a heart attack and dies before he can do any real damage. As if making preparations for a man he never knew wasn’t enough, the morgue has been affected by a flood in town and Norval has to sleep in his father’s home with his father’s corpse in the same house. Facing his own booze-fueled demons, Norval takes solace in his father’s wine supply but it’s as if he can hear the house moaning at him; the pipes whine and groan as if they’re in pain. Is his father getting his revenge from beyond the grave or is something more mischievous afoot?
As mentioned previously, Elijah Wood has an extremely unusual appearance in Come to Daddy. He has a creepy mustache, the most drastic bowl cut anyone could ever have, a feminine pair of black boots, fingernails painted black, and wears long sleeve black shirts that are open where the arms bend, dark turtlenecks, and no sleeve white t-shirts. His father refers to his wardrobe as, “lady clothes,” but it’s easier just to think of Norval as a slightly effeminate individual that puts a little too much thought into what’s trendy and fashionable right now.
This is the directorial debut of Ant Thompson, one of the producers of Turbo Kid and a contributor to The ABCs of Death franchise. For writing duties on Come to Daddy, Thompson is credited with the idea of the film while The Greasy Stangler’s Toby Harvard wrote the actual story. The thriller is unique in the sense that you never really know what direction it’s going to go in. Speaking as someone who also hasn’t seen much of his father in the past three decades, seeing a character go through that on-screen always catches the attention of a child of divorce. The tension between Norval and his father along with the intimidation tactics, calling each other’s bluff, and trying to impress the man who made you; they’re all a part of this wound inside you that never really heals. Then you finally get to those burning questions you’ve been dying to ask all these years like, “Why did you leave?” and, “Why are you trying to be a part of my life now?”
But Come to Daddy takes a lot of peculiar twists and turns. This magnificent mystery unfolds in what is otherwise a dramatic thriller, but it also has a comedic backbone with a tendency to dive headfirst into horror when you’re least expecting it. Norval does some pretty unspeakable things with a two prong pot fork and the film portrays attempting to sneak through a hotel room littered with people who are obviously sleeping off orgy activities. Nearly all of the characters in the film feel different and hilarious in their own right though. The police officer that comes to investigate the death of Norval’s father, Ronald Plum (Garfield Wilson), has an obsession with people having or not having raisin eyes. His theory is that bad guys have small, dark eyes that resemble raisins. Jethro (played by Michael Smiley) develops this shtick of being off-screen and screaming about his friends and fellow criminals being killed. His diabolical plan involving a writing pen is disgusting. Come to Daddy manages to make torture and potential escape humorous. Ant Thompson has created this film that is entertaining on all fronts and unlike anything else out there.
Come to Daddy is this bizarre thriller that makes you laugh out loud, cringe on more than one occasion, and strings its audience along this sad, beautiful, and often gruesome enigmatic tale that is really about a father and his son at its core. The ending of the film resonates with me so much. Come to Daddy purposely doesn’t flat out answer why a father would suddenly contact a now adult son after 30 years of silence. That relationship is complicated and broken; it’s not something that will be mended with a single visit or one long overdue conversation.
The film leaves that aspect open to interpretation, but here’s my take: we can regret our past, but we can’t change it. We can only move forward. This father hates what he’s had to do to take care of his family, but he still did it. Yes, Norval’s father needed actual physical help in the film but the second half is also this weird and unforgettable kind of bonding experience for the two of them. This is a film about forgiveness, progression, and coming to the realization that even though one of the most important people in your life hasn’t been there for most of it he’s always kept you on his mind and has never forgotten you.
© 2020 Chris Sawin