I wasn’t sure what to expect walking into Boris Rodriguez’ Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal beyond just the context clues of the title. I’d heard it described as a dark comedy, a comedy/horror and things along those lines and that it was a Danish/Canadian production that had a couple folks from the film Pontypool and that was about it. I’m skeptical of comedy/horror a lot of the time because the burning need to try to tell a rapid fire of jokes and dumb sight-gags supersedes the need to actually write the humor so it often just falls flat. Thankfully, that is not the case with this film and by the end of it I was pretty sure this was one I needed to own and re watch and enjoy time and time again.
For starters, the story is ridiculous. This is not a bad thing, but, you have to be willing to go with it in order to settle in with the movie early on. The story follows Lars (Thure Lindhardt) a painter of some note that is fixed up by his art dealer friend (the great Stephen McHattie) with a teaching position at an arts school in a small Canadian Town after a long creative dry spell. Lars sees it as a way to change course, to get away from the ever present whispers of self-doubt and self destruction in the face of his lack of creative output. Of course, his dealer has other ideas and saddles Lars with a bevy of painting supplies much to his frustration.
Lars is greeted at the school with some degree of fanfare from the school administrator Harry (Alain Goulem, who has one of the best lines in the film late), skepticism from some including teacher and sculptor Lesley (the lovely Georgina Reilly) and a strange strange working circumstance.
The school receives funding from a benefactor with an odd requirement: the school look after her nephew Eddie and give him a place to be and in the event of her death, proper care. This would ensure that the school continue to receive money from her trust. Eddie is a large, silent curly-haired man who passes time painting rudimentary watercolors and eating a lot of cereal. Dylan Smith plays Eddie early on with an amazing sweetness and charm that you cannot help but immediately care for him. The characterization in his face, the subtle expressions are utterly charming and you are almost immediately in his corner. As expected, the benefactor dies and after some degree of issue, Lars volunteers to have Eddie live with him.
Knowing what we know of the title, this seems like a bad idea. Lars is initially thrown for a loop the first time Eddie creeps out at night and kills a rabbit. This gives way to an odd kind of acceptance of this and as Eddie escalates, Lars reaps the rewards of Eddie’s exploits in the form of creative inspiration to paint. Early on it is alluded to that after a bad accident ten years prior, Lars was creating the best work of his career so it seems as though his creative process is looped in with blood and guts. So as it goes, Eddie moves from woodland creatures to people and Lars works to cover it up and pretty quickly become a willing participant (again, the story is abjectly goofy but just go with it) and even encourages the bloody business.
The whole latter part of the film is just a hoot. It reminded me of the classic Roger Corman B-movie film A Bucket Of Blood (theme of artistic pursuit over all things) and of the Matthew Broderick/Reese Witherspoon film Election (for jet black humor) and unravels in what seems expected but turns and moves in a creative and fun sort of way to an unexpected and very satisfying ending. Again, I want to own this movie.
I mentioned humor above – one of the most important parts of the humor in this film is that they never go out and try to tell jokes. The humor comes from the interactions between people in this small town and the utterly screwy setup. There was a Coen Brothers-esque quality to this that isn’t easy to do but Boris Rodriguez does a fine job with this cast of oddball characters. One character in particular, Vernon the town Deputy (Paul Braunstein) is just so so funny. He has this deadpan delivery and rhythm to his speech that killed me. Again, he doesn’t tell jokes – he just exists and his existence is inherently funny.
While there are a very uncomfortable edits at times and I while I did wish there could have been some more flesh to the title character’s back story, Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal as a whole was such a good time and well worth it start to finish.