“Come to Daddy” begins with two epigraphs: Shakespeare’s warning that “the sins of the father are to be laid upon the children” and the Beyoncé lyric “there is no one else like my daddy.”
A similar duality can be felt throughout the rest of Ant Timpson’s proudly provocative father-son genre exercise. Initially presenting itself as a kind of family drama, its tense undertones gradually become overtones as the son, played by Elijah Wood, learns how far from the tree the apple really lands.
As the movie begins, Norval (Wood) arrives at the remote lake house of his estranged father (Stephen McHattie, 2019’s “Rabid” remake), marking the first time the two have seen each other in 30 years; suffice to say it isn’t a happy reunion. Things are instantly uncomfortable, with the old man’s aggression progressing from passive to active over the course of their first night together. The reason for this resentment is a mystery to us — beyond his alcohol dependence and generally unpleasant demeanor, that is — as is the reason why the old man wrote Norval a letter asking him to visit in the first place.
Wood, sporting a monk-like bowl cut and neatly trimmed mustache, is in his element as a son of privilege who quickly realizes he’s out of his depth in an unfamiliar environment. The actor has all but abandoned the studio system in favor of off-kilter genre oddities like this one, even founding SpectreVision, the production company behind “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” and “Mandy”; his clear passion for this project elevates the material and keeps the occasionally dour proceedings as lively as possible.
Norval owns an extremely limited edition gold iPhone designed by Lorde and claims to be close personal friends with Elton John, whereas his dad’s details on pretty much everything are sketchy at best. Neither man is willing to lay all his cards on the table, and “Come to Daddy” is at its quiet best when focusing on the interplay between the two.
Timpson, making his feature debut behind the camera, controls the action with so steady a hand that you almost don’t notice when it goes off the rails midway through. (He previously produced “The Greasy Strangler,” SpectreVision’s weirdest, most off-putting offering to date.)
“Come to Daddy” has twists galore, not to mention a heavy dose of gore, but the further it drifts from its initial understated dynamic, the less each successive development seems to matter.
And though you won’t guess the exact direction it goes in, you probably won’t be surprised by the overall trajectory. It’s clear from the outset that there’s more to this dynamic than meets the eye, and though the eventual reveal is certainly strange, it’s almost distractingly so; it’s less an “aha!” moment and more a “wait, what?”
Genre fiends looking for their next midnight movie will be unbothered by these flaws, but those who don’t revel in oddity and gore for their own sake will find it lacking. “Come to Daddy” simply isn’t that compelling, which would be less of a problem if it weren’t trying so hard to be.