Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2019)
It’s pretty much tradition that I accidentally pick at least one film for each October Horror Movie Challenge that turns out not to be horror at all. Well, Come to Daddy is this year’s pick. While it was tagged as horror on both IMDB and Prime Video, I can’t see it as anything other than an ultraviolent black comedy. Even so, it’s a fun film that will appeal to horror fans, so let’s review it anyway.
Come to Daddy is currently available on Prime Video in the UK.
After receiving a letter inviting him to visit, Norval takes a long journey to his estranged father’s house on the coast. His father abandoned his family when Norval was a young child, and they have not seen each other for 30 years. When Norval arrives, however, his father seems less than happy to see him. While Norval tries to forge some kind of connection, his father’s behaviour grows ever more bizarre and violent.
Norval soon learns that his father’s life is filled with more dark secrets than he ever imagined. The house is riddled with hidden passages, concealing shocks and revelations. As the truth comes out, Norval is forced to deal his father’s eccentric and highly dangerous business associates.
Will Norval be able to patch things up with his father? What is the source of the strange sounds in the walls? And just what is Norval’s relationship with Elton John anyway?
Some of the mystery of how Come to Daddy came to be classified as horror was solved when I checked the credits. Director Ant Timpson has worked as producer on a number of terrific horror films over the past 15 years. These include The Field Guide to Evil and Censor, which we’ve discussed here, along with fan favourites like Housebound, The ABCs of Death, Turbo Kid, The Greasy Strangler and Deathgasm.
Come to Daddy is Timpson’s first feature film as director, but his production experience has clearly served him well. While Come to Daddy may not be a horror film, its weirdness, shocks, and bloody excesses definitely feel like they’ve come from a creative team who love the genre.
Timpson’s track record as a producer also helps explain why a debut feature from a New Zealand director has such a strong international cast. As well as Elijah Wood’s memorable lead role (and even more memorable haircut), Come to Daddy features standout performances from character actors like Stephen McHattie, Michael Smiley, Martin Donovan and Madeleine Sami.
While Timpson shot the film in New Zealand, the coastal location is meant to double for somewhere in California. I’m not sure how well this will convince people who know California better than I do, but it at least looks beautiful. For all its dark secrets, Norval’s father’s beach house would make a terrific spot for a long weekend getaway, just as long as you can ignore the strange noises in the walls.
Come to Daddy kept reminding me of the darkly comedic thrillers Charlie Higson wrote in the 1990s. If you find this film to your taste, you should check out Higson’s King of the Ants, Happy Now, Full Whack and, especially, Getting Rid of Mr Kitchen.
Despite being a dubious pick for the month’s challenge, I had a hell of a lot of fun with Come to Daddy. From the outset, there is a real tension between its breezy, sun-drenched tone and the darker undercurrents it hints at.
In a film filled with vibrantly strange characters, Stephen McHattie’s performance as Norval’s father stands out as delightfully unhinged, convincing us that he is not only dangerous, but a complete arsehole. While we’re never in any doubt that he is hiding something, the film keeps us guessing for just long enough.
This leads us on to the main difficulty in reviewing Come to Daddy. It is difficult to explain what makes the film work so well without getting into serious spoilers. There are some big surprises even within the first act, and I guarantee the story will not go where you expect it to. Norval’s descent into the lies and violence of his father’s life leads to increasingly strange places, and a final act that is unrelentingly weird.
So while Come to Daddy may not have been the horror film I was expecting, it was certainly not a disappointment. Definitely worth a watch if you like your comedies bloody, brutal and batshit crazy.
The October Horror Movie Challenge
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- Dark August (USA, 1976)
- Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico/Peru, 2022)
- The Banishing (UK, 2020)
- Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
- Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
- Pyewacket (Canada, 2017)
- Grave Robbers (Mexico, 1989)
- You Might Be The Killer (USA, 2018)
- No One Will Save You (USA, 2023)
- The Sect (Italy, 1991)
- Last Night in Soho (UK, 2021)
- Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (Spain, 2017)
- 47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)
- The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
- In the Earth (UK, 2021)
- Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)
- Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
- Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
- Older Gods (UK, 2023)
- Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2020)
- Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)
- Totally Killer (USA, 2023)
- The Premonition (USA, 1976)
- Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)
- The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)
- Talk to Me (Australia, 2023)
- Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
- Demon (Poland, 2015)
- Juju Stories (Nigeria, 2022)
- El Conde (Chile, 2023)
- The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hong Kong/UK, 1974)
A Final Note
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Night House
- The Changeling
- The Endless
- Our favourite Cthulhu Mythos media
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!