(Release Info London schedule; February 17th, 2020, Prince Charles Cinema, 7 Leicester Pl, London WC2H 7BY, United Kingdom, 9:00pm)
"Come To Daddy"
Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood) is a 'Los Angeles DJ' who receives an invitation to visit his father Brian (Stephen McHattie) after a lifetime of estrangement. The sincere invitation sends 30-something Norval to his estranged father with hopes of reconciliation. Norval is a privileged man-child arrives at the beautiful and remote coastal cabin of his father, who he hasn’t seen in 30 years. Once Norval arrives at Brian’s isolated seaside home, he discovers that reconnecting with the cynical old man; and fitting himself into his dad’s messy life; won’t be easy. He quickly discovers that not only is dad a disapproving jerk, he also has a shady past that's rushing to catch up with him. Now, hundreds of miles from his cushy comfort zone, Norval must battle with demons both real and perceived in order to reconnect with a father he barely knows. Hope turns to panic, as he uncovers his father’s shady past and is forced to face his inherited demons.
Norval is a peculiar character, a somewhat pretentious 'LA' export with a carefully cultivated look; monk cut, pencil mustache, draping layers, wide-brimmed hat, limited edition gold phone designed by 'Lorde'. He describes his career in the music industry in the most self-congratulatory terms. He's not someone you can pigeonhole. He's a DJ! He produces blazing beats. He tinkles the ivories. He promotes high-profile events pertaining to music and the performance of music. He’s maybe kind of an asshole. Norval’s look is crucial to the story, as it firmly establishes the character as a fish out of water in his father’s remote, rural setting. We've to find the authenticity behind Norval’s wilder characteristics. He keeps the emotional truth of that alive, as well; whilst also telling a pretty bloody, funny, genre tale. The isolated house, it’s going to make such a great juxtaposition for the character’s isolation. This is very much a father and son story, and even though it draws pretty freely on what actually happened, that the very core of the movie comes from a son’s love for his dad, and their relationship, and everything that entails.
Like the best stories, "Come To Daddy" springs from a deeply personal place. It's really driven by an epiphany after Brian's dying, and just thinking, ‘oh my God, life’s short. Get your act together. The passing of a parent is life-changing under any circumstances, but the film expériences the loss in a rather more unusual way. Is it really a good idea to bring the body back after embalmment to spend some time with the grieving family? Living with your father’s corpse for a week in his house. For much of the week, Norval is alone in the house with the body resting in an open coffin, as he sleeps in his father’s bed and wears his clothes. Strangers come and go, paying their respects to a man who sounded nothing like the man Norval knew. They speak about their shared past with him and mentioned faraway places and strange anecdotes, stories from people he had never heard of. It seems to us like they're talking about someone else. During the week, Norval endures dark, intense dreams, and his mind starts playing tricks on him. He returns to his childhood bedroom, surrounded by a lot of bric-a-brac of his past. It's a strange time. Reading a lot of Roald Dahl's 'Tales Of The Unexpected' and watching many ‘70s 'Giallo' movies. And drinking copious amounts of Rooibos tea, often up to five bags per cup. It feels like a wild amalgam of sly thrillers like Mankiewicz’s "Sleuth" (1972), and Lumet’s "Deathtrap" (1982). Well, that’s really phenomenal and crazy and weird; and right up our alley. This is the exact kind of thing that we’re drawn to, which is kind of off-center, kind of weird, kind of dark, kind of funny. Because as many strange, surprising places as "Come To Daddy" goes, it all comes back to that personal core, to that cathartic, eureka moment when your father died. As sons, we always have unfinished business with our fathers. But what happens if that unfinished business comes looking for us?
The music of "Come To Daddy" is inspired by 'KPM' stars like Barry Morgan and James Clarke, David Shire’s 'The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three' and Jerry Goldsmith’s 'The Mephisto Waltz'. The music really revolves around Norval and his dad. To speak to that sense of a child's impressions of their hazily remembered father, the film uses a beachy motif derived from play-along backing loops recorded in the ‘70s for 'The Mattel Optigan' home organ. This stuff is contrasted with a lot of bass instruments, again to reflect Norval's feelings about his dad, electric bass and contrabass, often combined, as well as the bassier woodwinds using lots of extended techniques that really get close to the player's mouth, and so go to a much less musical and more visceral, almost creepily human, place.
That equilibrium between emotional honesty and darkly funny violence makes for an atypical tone distinguishing "Come To Daddy" from many other contemporary films. The film breaks through those expectations and have the audience unsure of where it's going, from dysfunctional family reunion to psychological mindgames to possible supernatural overtones to a wildly over-the- top comedic thriller. Psychologically-driven chamber piece films, often out of 'The UK' in the ‘60s and ‘70s, are all part of the film’s narrative 'DNA', including "Sleuth" for the cat &mouse twists, Glazer’s 2000 film "Sex Beast" for the jarring lead antagonist and turns from comedy to violence, Losey’s 1963 thriller "The Servant" for the mindgames with those we’re inavoidably linked with, Friedkin’s 1968 adaptation of Harold Pinter’s "The Birthday Party" for the pitch-black comedy of menace, and Peckinpah’s 1971 "Straw Dogs" for the simmering violence awakened in the lead. The film is a tribute to this type of cinema. Gritty, character-based thrillers that were literate and laced with pitch-black humor. The film creates a Pinter-esque tale that will immediately drawn in viewers, but then playfully keeps switching gears on them. Just when they've a handle on everything, we chicane again.
"Come To Daddy" is a thoughtful, character-driven thriller spiked with uncommonly dark comedy and more than a few outrageous turns. One part a retro, ‘70s, 'British' exploitation chamber piece, one part 'J-Horror' misdirect and, finally, a full-throttle, get-in-your-face revenge thriller. It’s a virtuoso high-wire act that will play to the fervor of a raucous midnight crowd, or to the more genteel sensibilities of a Sunday afternoon matinee.