Both a low-budget horror movie and an art satire, the deadpan Canadian-Danish co-production, Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal is a different kind of taste treat.
Written and directed by Boris Rodriguez, from a story by Jonathan Rannels, Eddie features an adroit performance by Danish actor and Paul Bettany-look-alike Thure Lindhardt, as a once-famous artist who has been creatively dry for a decade. Lars takes a teaching job at an art school in the fictional Canadian town of Koda Lake (shot around Ottawa) where the administration hopes his international reputation will help draw donors.
Any idea that his term will be a peaceful retreat is shattered when Lars, driving on a snowy road to his new job, strikes a deer with his truck. As Lars is trying to bash the creature out of its misery with a rock, a police car pulls up. The suspicious cop (Paul Braunstein) wants to know what he’s up to and leaves him with a warning to watch his ways.
One unnerving event leads to another. Shortly after, Lars finds himself in front of a class of aspiring artists, including Eddie (Dylan Smith), a mute and apparently intellectually impaired man, who is the son of one of the school’s donors. When Eddie’s aunt dies, Lars finds himself sharing his cabin with his student. Although he’s a quiet roommate, Eddie has an unpleasant habit: He leaves the house at night, dressed only in his briefs, and kills and eats things in his sleep. The first victim is a rabbit; the next one’s an obnoxious neighbour.
Eddie’s nocturnal hunting has an unexpected benefit: Lars’s artistic inspiration returns, and he whips up the first of a series of masterpieces (we never see them on screen) in a fury. The sale of the painting provides funds for the school, and even Lars’s love life starts to improve. Comely fellow teacher and sculptor (Georgina Riley) turns from scorning to throwing herself at him. The downside is that he has become dependent on Eddie’s homicidal ways, encouraging his housemate to knock off anyone Lars finds offensive, diminishing the population of the already small town.
As far as it goes, Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal is a well-paced and calibrated blend of juicy gore and low-key comedy. Lindhardt and Smith make a macabre Laurel and Hardy pair, with Braunstein as the truculent cop, and Stephen McHattie as Lars’s oily agent, adding colourful notes. A scene of Eddie running barefoot and mostly naked through the snow is amusingly reminiscent of the climax of Zacharias Kunuk’s Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner.
On the downside, it is also deliberately unambitious. There are provocative hints here about the links between aggression and creativity (as in A Clockwork Orange) or the violence of art capitalism, but, like Eddie, the film remains mute on the big questions. The movie ends up exactly what it sounds like: a good film for filling the midnight slot at a review cinema or genre festival.