Art and violence have been cozy bedfellows for centuries. Maybe art doesn’t like to flaunt its close relationship with violence, but the two aren’t above exploiting each other either. This is sort of the premise behind Boris Rodriguez’s darkly satirical EDDIE THE SLEEPWALKING CANNIBAL.
Lars Olafsen (Thor Lindhart) is a once-successful painter who has pretty much given up on inspiration ever striking again. He takes a position at a remote and impoverished art school in Canada, where he plans to spend his days teaching and trying to quiet the people in his periphery who wonder if he will ever again put brush to canvas.
In his class, he has a tall, mute man named Eddie (Dylan Scott Smith). He’s a reserved man who suffered deep emotional trauma as a child, which has caused many in the town to take care of him. It also doesn’t hurt that Eddie’s aunt and chief caretaker is also the art school’s greatest financial donor.
When the aunt passes away, Lars is offered the chance to take care of Eddie, since the two seem to have hit it off. Lars is open to the idea. After all, Eddie doesn’t talk much, Lars wants to endear himself to the town and maybe Eddie will take Lars’ mind off that blank, white canvas that keeps staring him down.
Unfortunately, Eddie sleepwalks. Not just that, Eddie sleepwalks and feeds on animals in the woods. Lars is alarmed at first, but later perversely leaves the window open for Eddie at night, in the hopes that he will take care of his violent neighbor’s yapping dog. When Lars awakes in the morning, he discovers that the dog has been taken care of. But Eddie didn’t stop at animal meat this time out.
Feeling some responsibility for this, Lars protects Eddie and disposes of the evidence. What’s more, Lars in inspired to paint for the first time in a decade. He paints his greatest work yet, which he immediately sells, donating the proceeds to the school. This wins him the respect and admiration of the art school staff. In particular, Lars starts a relationship with sculptor Lesley (Georgina Reilly).
The problem is that now people wonder what’s next for Lars, who has discovered that he can only paint when inspired by blood and carnage. He has grown to care for Eddie, serving as a brother and friend to the man. But he also feels that lust to create, a lust that only comes from destruction. Rather than looking out for what’s best for Eddie, Lars starts to use Eddie’s nocturnal habits for his own personal gain.
EDDIE THE SLEEPWALKING CANNIBAL is a wickedly funny horror comedy. Maybe it’s not the type that Hitchcock would have done, but it sure is the type that would have made Hitchcock proud. Rodriguez knows just when to be subtle and when to go for broke. He is never too showy and instead ushers his actors skillfully through this cold landscape with just enough heart to make us care and just enough humor not to bum us out when things inevitably go south for Lars and Eddie.
One thing I wished Rodriguez had done is know when to stop. There is a final twist to the story which opens up a number of gaping plot holes and feeling forced overall. Oh well.
Lindhart is convincing and sympathetic, even when his character steps over the line and becomes more and more culpable in the murder of several people. Georgina Reilly is just a delightful screen presence. I thought so when I saw her in the underrated horror gem, PONTYPOOL and she’s even better here.
Rodriguez draws the conclusion that a lot of great art is rooted in some truly graphic violence. Lars often listens to operas on the radio. After each piece, your typical NPR-type announcer will come on to talk about the horrendous happenings in the classic opera, always noting how moving it all is.
And who are we to argue? There are plenty of people who claim to avoid all sorts of gruesomeness. There are those who avoid all sorts of violence in both their art and their entertainment. But the proliferation of violence and brutality in horror films, thrillers, mysteries and even reality and documentary television suggests that the people who honestly don’t enjoy it are very few indeed. The rest are merely hypocrites, like the rest of us.
This article also appeared at Film Geek Central.