How do you take such a dark topic as father abandonment issues and turn them into a comedy horror film? That question can be answered in its entirety in Ant Timpson’s latest film Come To Daddy, which screened as the opening film of FrightFest 2019. With a back catalogue that exploits Timpson as producer on some of the most hilarious, gory and tongue-in-cheek films including Deathgasm, Turbo Kid and The Greasy Strangler, it’s no wonder that this movie managed to make such a perverse impact on the audience. Drawing on his own experiences with his Dad passing away, being isolated with the dead body and being told to find ways to speak about any “daddy” issues he had, Timpson delivers a wickedly comedic film that will keep you shocked, entertained and in a state of surprise.

When Norval receives a letter from his estranged father asking him to quite literally “Come To Daddy” he decides that it might just be the perfect opportunity to reconnect with him. He travels to a remote and isolated location, where his father lives in a wood and glass house built upon the beach rocks and overlooking the stormy seas. When Norval arrives, it’s clear to him and his father have completely opposite personalities, however, Norval still tries very hard to impress his father. When his father becomes abusive, violent and threatens to kill Norval, it’s only time before he realises that there are far more secrets hidden beneath the exterior than he would have imagined.

Come To Daddy starts out as a psychological horror film focused on father issues that really push home to many of us that have a strained relationship with our parents. Although this is a tough topic to approach, Timpson took moments of his own life as inspiration (as he detailed in the Q+A hosted after the film) and then imagined how they might be presented with Norval’s character as a modern-day hipster who wants to impress his Dad through aspects such as having a limited edition gold phone, something that of course isn’t impressive to his father whatsoever. Whether or not intentional, it seems like a smart move to focus on daddy issues when we’re currently living in a society where the latest generations are obsessed with flaunting their daddy issues and making it into a sexual preference. Perhaps Timpson took note of this and capitalised on it, which is where the humorous side comes from. Regardless, the first act of the film is one that deals with paternal problems, grief, loss and how to come to terms with losing someone before you’ve made peace with them.

Coming into the second act the film takes a drastic twist into something completely different, which is where the audience realises they’re in for one hell of a journey. Not being able to see where a film is going to go makes the intrigue far more appealing; it’s near impossible to understand what Come To Daddy has in store and where the story will take us. What ensues is a script that gets flipped on its head completely, and takes down a hilariously out-there story that still plays on the aspect that a lot of us have asshole dads that care and love us in very peculiar ways, all the while still doing what they can to protect us from the evils that be. Things get extremely violent and gory, with a shocking scene that leaves every inch of the screen covered in blood and shit. We’re also privy to some in your face penis shots that although come as a surprise, are integral to the plot and make a difference to seeing a woman’s body exploited.

The comedy is well-paced throughout, but won’t be for everyone – I would suspect that those who do not have a very dry and inappropriate humour won’t understand some of the moments from this film. Although Come To Daddy is a New Zealand film, the humour is designed for an English audience and therefore sat very well with those at Frightfest because most of us seem to revel in having a very dark and dry British humour. But the comedy would be nothing without it’s delivery by the outstanding Elijah Wood and Michael Smiley, who play off one another with such ease. Wood has been a long-time favourite of mine since he moved away from blockbuster films to focus on independent horror, and it’s where he seems to have found a home for himself. Michael Smiley, who starred in another Frightfest film, Kill List, is almost unrecognisable in this film but portrays his character to perfection.

It’s easy to see why Come To Daddy was chosen as the opening film for the festival; there’s nothing not to like about it. Come To Daddy is dark, unexpected, bloody and fucking hilarious – not to be missed!

Rating: ★★★★★

Directed by: Ant Timpson

Written by: Toby Harvard

Cast: Elijah Wood, Stephen McHattie, Garfield Wilson, Madeleine Sami