Elijah Wood will most likely be remembered as Frodo Baggins, the kind-hearted and heroic hobbit who struggled through the corrupting powers of Sauron’s Ring. But his acting career besides his middle-earth ventures should be not be underestimated as he’s proven himself to be adept in numerous genres, from comedy (the TV series Wilfred), horror (Maniac, one of the most underrated horror remakes), thriller (Grand Piano) to numerous dramas (Everything is Illuminated and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). We also shouldn’t neglect his voice-acting performance as Mumble, the central tap-dancing penguin of Happy Feet.
Besides acting, Wood has co-founded a production company, SpectreVision, which has co-financed some of the most noteworthy niche horror films of the past decade, such as A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and Mandy. Most relevant to this review, SpectreVision had also produced one of the funniest films of recent decad, The Greasy Strangler, which just like Come to Daddy, is an unconventional exploration of a damaged father-son relationship.
It’s clear that Wood isn’t interested in doing the standard Hollywood schlock that you see in theaters every week. We must all commend Wood for this in one way or another. His formula might not always work, but when it does, you might very well have a cult classic on your hands.
Similarly, Come to Daddy will probably become a cult-favorite among many. Like The Greasy Strangler, it’s a film about a twisted father-son relationship that goes in unsuspected directions, to say the least. Though unlike that film, Come to Daddy features a lot less male frontal nudity.
Thirty-something musician, Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood), receives a letter from his estranged father, David (Stephen McHattie), prompting him to meet him in his secluded cabin in Oregon. After a long journey, they finally meet though, it doesn’t seem that they have anything in common — except for the copious amounts of drinking. Norval is a struggling alcoholic while David seems particularly unashamed by his alcoholism.
Norval desperately tries to impress his father by embellishing his role in the music industry, both as a musician and an industry bigwig. But David quickly sees through his lies and tells him that the only thing that would actually impress him is if Norval ever got into a fight. Seeing his wimpy demeanor, it’s clear that Norval never got into a fight at all — and certainly never accidentally kicked someone’s ear off, as David professes he did once.
After some posturing between the two, Norval finally has enough and implores his father to tell him why he sent him that letter in the first place. David refuses to tell him, even threatening him with violence. But Norval, haunted by how his dad had left him at five years old, needs to know the truth. Their confrontation is the beginning of a brutal rekindling between father and son, in which the truth might be too difficult for Norval to bear.
Twist and Turns
Come to Daddy is a difficult movie to talk about, especially with its many surprises. Even talking about its supporting cast can lead to some massive spoilers. The film goes into surprising territory, with a slow build-up until its eventual deranged and gory third act.
It’s a film that you should see without any foreknowledge. And after you’ve seen it, it’s the perfect film to put on for your friends, just to see their shocked reaction when the film takes its inevitable weird turn.
Elijah Wood and the Supporting Cast
Elijah Wood’s baby-face is naturally perfect for the hapless Norval, especially when the violent madness really begins to escalate. Wood’s nearly childlike facial impressions gives many of the film’s twisted laughs. At the same, the character of Norval had serious struggles with depression, even confessing to a nearly successful suicide attempt. His eventual alcoholic relapse is played straight rather than for laughs — in probably the character’s most pathetic moment. The final scene, though its content I will avoid spoiling, is surprisingly moving, giving perfect closure to Norval’s emotional journey.
As stated before, it’s hard to talk about the supporting cast because their significance leads to great spoilers. Rest assured that the three most important ones, McHattie, Michael Smiley, and Martin Donovan all give fantastic, sometimes hilarious performances.
Come to Daddy is probably one of the most unique films you’ll see this year. A blackly comic thriller with genuine surprises and an emotional core that actually works. It’s a cult classic in the making.
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