|Dylan Smith as the title character|
Taste in comedy is one of the most subjective things there is, right up there with music and the way one takes one's eggs (Douglas Adams was right, everybody in the fucking universe takes their eggs differently, it's uncanny). Some people like goofy comedy, some like fart jokes, some repartee, some odd people even find bald men smashing watermelons with hammers funny. Me? I like all the aforementioned except the watermelon business, even though I'll concede it a point or two on pure strangeness. But one particular thing I love is really, really dark deadpan shit deriving from and intertwined with graphic violence. Another particular thing I love is lots and lots of levels and meta out the fuckin wazoo. A third, truly special thing I find hilarious, are titles that are both elaborately on-the-nose and insane. That last is a bit of a stretch intended as a segue into the glorious, sublime fact that there is a movie that exists in the world that people can go see called Eddie, The Sleepwalking Cannibal.
The title was what initially intrigued me. Then I saw this enthusiastic recommendation. And I thought, hey, what the fuck. What's the worst that can happen? Even if it sucks it'll be over in an hour twenty. So I decided to give it a whirl. And oh boy oh boy lemme tell ya. This picture's fucking great. It's funny, it's dark, it's fucking fucked the fuck up (in the best sense of that exalted designation), and it's kind of a brutal “stop frontin, you know this is pretty much the way it is” critique of the “tortured artist” mythos that hits the center of the bulls-eye.
Our protagonist is a Danish painter named Lars Olafssen who, in the midst of a creative dry spell, takes a teaching gig way out in the middle of goddamn nowhere in rural Canada. On the way out there, he hits a deer with his car, a situation he deals with in a way that is . . . well . . . kind of strange. His fellow art school teachers welcome him with varying degrees of warmth, and almost immediately Lars is warned about a student named Eddie, a fairly innocuous looking dude (apart from being a mute) whom they let sit in provided he doesn't disturb anyone. Lars hits it off with Eddie, who comes to live with Lars in his house.
In fairly short order, Lars comes to discover that Eddie has a nocturnal routine you can probably guess from looking at the title of the movie: left unchecked, Eddie walks in his sleep and eats people. Lars is a little nonplussed (I mean, dude, somnambu-cannibalism is some ya-don't-see-that-every-day shit if ever there was such a thing) but he soon finds that Eddie's wanderings and snacking is inspiring him to paint for the first time in ten years. And because he wants to keep painting, Eddie has to keep eating people.
And yeah, all this insanity is really fuckin funny. Thure Lindhart is equally adept at playing Lars as endearingly alien, weirdly creepy, and someone who is his art, in a terrific lead performance. Dylan Smith has an even steeper difficulty curve as Eddie, not overdoing the simpleton aspect of his waking repose or the mania of his tormented, ravenous sleep, and making us care about Eddie even when he's gnawing on someone's neck before they're dead. Stephen McHattie shows up in a smallish role as the craven representation of art as commerce and, as the devil always does, has all the best lines. (Ed. Note: he doesn't play the literal devil, he's just a guy. Gotta clarify with a picture this strange.)
Eddie, The Sleepwalking Cannibal works as a horror comedy even if it isn't exactly that thing, primarily because its setting, atmosphere and tone are so utterly fucking weird. The violence is kind of matter of fact, and only one person seems to really give a shit that Eddie's running around eating people. Everyone else is far more concerned with Lars and his art: no atrocity so great that it cannot be swept under the rug in the interests of A Great Man engaged in the process of making Great Art. The movie makes something of a point of never showing the audience any of Lars' paintings that everyone oohs and ahhs over, nor the sculpture his “love interest” shows him. The concern here is more with the artist and the way people enable artistic turpitude. The picture's conclusion ties that point up nicely, in both form and content; if it's a smidge too neat, that's a minor quibble.
The important point is, holy shit this movie's good. If you've been waiting for a movie about a Danish painter in rural Canada whose roommate eats people—and I know you have—you're going to want to check this one out, and keep an eye on writer-director Boris Rodriguez, because this cat knows how to make movies.