In one sense, Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal definitely lives up to its title. Sure enough, there's a guy in it named Eddie, and yup, he's a sleepwalking cannibal, alright.
I thought I knew what a movie with a title like that was gonna deliver. It's obviously going to be some campy, deliriously over-the-top, batshit-insane splatter-comedy, right? Well, no, not really. We're
actually talking about a very measured dark comedy, and it's ultimately more interested in an artist's all-consuming desire to create than it is in its towering, sleepwalking gutmuncher. ...but hey, if the movie just went by its on-screen title of Eddie, you'd have skipped right by it, and tacking on The Sleepwalking Cannibal definitely makes you go back for a second look. It's worth it too.
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Everyone seems to think that Danish high-art-superstar Lars (Thure Lindhardt) has settled into the sleepy little Canadian town of Koda Lake to recharge his batteries. It's been ten years since he last put brush to canvas, after all, and why else would a big name like that set up shop as an art instructor on a speck on the map like this? But, no, Lars has accepted his fate. He's useless as a painter but may prove to have some value as an instructor, and this is his new life. Turns out that his luck's not a whole lot better on this side of the Atlantic. The sheriff (Paul Braunstein) is keeping a little too close an eye on him. His neighbor is a raging prick whose relentlessly yapping dog won't let Lars get a wink of sleep. The cute sculptor (Georgina Reilly) at the art school thinks he's a nutjob. The dean has the best of intentions but won't let Lars forget everything he's lost as a painter. Oh! ...and the school is about to lose its funding if it can't find a way to support its biggest donor's nephew.
Eddie (Dylan Scott Smith) is a thirty-or-forty-something-year-old mute somewhere in the neighborhood of 6'2" who the staff has let hang around the art school, and now they have to find someplace a little more permanent for him to stay. Lars opens up his home to Eddie, but...yeah, he missed the full title on the cover, so he didn't get the memo about the sleepwalking cannibalism part of the deal. Lars can't say anything because then the dean will be obligated to report it, Eddie will get locked up, and the school will be shuttered. It gets to be a pleasant little routine: Eddie munches on someone or something, Lars cleans up the grisly aftermath, and those buckets of splatter inspire him to paint for the first time in ages. Lars' work sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars. His colleagues -- with too-cute Lesley at the top of that list! -- adore him. He finally fills that creative void that's been aching inside him for a decade straight. ...and if Lars is able to steer his slumbering roommate the right way and rid Koda Lake of its biggest pricks, all the better, right? It's just that there's making the most of a bad situation, and then there's what Lars does next...!
I was pretty certain beforehand that I'd like Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal, and although I was definitely right about that, it's for a completely different set of reasons than I thought. The balance of just
about everything is perfect. The cover art promises a sleepwalking cannibal, and it more than delivers on that front. The body count's pretty hefty, and plenty of the red stuff is sloshed around. At the same time, the movie's not really going for gross-out humor, and it's not trying to terrify you to the point where you sleep with a nightlight on either. Eddie's sort of just a force of nature. While he's awake, he's extremely shy and the absolute sweetest guy you could ever hope to meet. When he dozes off, he's...not. It's tough to imagine anyone other than Dylan Scott Smith in the title role. Without a word of dialogue, Smith crafts a character with a very distinct and surprisingly loveable personality in the waking hours and transforms him into someone almost unrecognizable when night falls. Smith plays a cannibal who savagely rips his prey apart and has blood caked all around his mouth, and he somehow keeps him completely sympathetic throughout. Pretty much all I do is sit around and watch gruesome horror movies, and instead of cheering on the splatter here, I legitimately felt sad when Eddie was being prodded into murder.
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Thure Lindhardt is every bit as terrific as Eddie's caretaker-slash-puppet master. Lars is quietly charming but uncomfortable, both with himself and with the world at large. He's a painter unable to paint...an artist unable to create; what does that make him, exactly? Lars struggles to answer that question himself until stumbling upon the aftermath of one of Eddie's midnight snacks. Again, it's a testament to both the sharp writing and the performances that a character as troublesome as Lars works. Unlike Eddie whose nocturnal noshing is propelled by pure instinct, Lars knows full well what he's doing. For all we know, Eddie had never munched on anything other than rabbits until Lars started steering him in the wrong direction. He's a scheming manipulator with motivations both pure and selfish, and it eventually consumes him. Again, I found myself really liking Lars, and when he starts to head down a dark path -- demeaning and manipulating others when the rush of creation fades away -- it hurts. It's been a long while since I found myself as deeply invested in a pair of characters as I am here, and who would've guessed I'd say that about a movie with "Sleepwalking Cannibal" in its title?
I love Eddie's dry, dark sense of humor, and it really doesn't take any obvious or lazy paths. The performances are unilaterally wonderful, and it sure doesn't hurt that the actors have such strong, smart material to work with. ...and, yeah, there's a sleepwalking cannibal, which I now know is always a plus. I think anyone with an artistic spirit will be able to appreciate the core conflict of the movie, which is really about a compulsion to create and the emptiness that seizes hold when that well runs dry. Well worth snatching as it swoops in under the radar. Very Highly Recommended.
Eddie looks very nice in high-def, boasting digital photography that's consistently clean, smooth, and nicely detailed. The somewhat muted palette complements the tone of the film, and a beefy bitrate staves off any sputters or stutters in the AVC encode. The scope aspect ratio helps Eddie look that much more cinematic while it's at it as well. I'm not left with a whole lot to gripe about: very well done all around.
There are two tracks on here: lossy Dolby Digital stereo (192kbps) as well as 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio. The 5.1 mix largely distinguishes itself through more pronounced atmospherics, particularly the biting wind that fills the rear channels. Don't expect any hyperaggressive split-surrounds or foundation-rattling bass, but Eddie isn't that type of movie anyway. It's also worth noting how glorious those operatic bursts sound in this lossless soundtrack. A lot of the dialogue strikes me as sounding kind of harsh and digital, but it's still listenable enough, even if I have to dial the volume down a few ticks for things to feel comfortable.
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Eddie also optionally offers English subtitles.
- The Dark Side of Creativity: The Making of Eddie (14 min.; HD): This efficient making-of featurette breezes through just about everything you'd want to see: casting, production design, the film's challenging, genre-bending tone, and even financing. Among the many highlights are how a Danish actor was cast in the lead well before Eddie became a Danish co-production, a theatrically-trained performer like Dylan Smith learning how to realize a character without a word of dialogue, and how shrugging off zombie clichés left Eddie without much precedent about how its gutmuncher should move. Definitely worth a look.
- Perfect (16 min.; SD): An early short by screenwriter/director Boris Rodriguez exposes the sticky underbelly of a banal, self-absorbed, suburban family.
- Trailer (2 min.; HD): Last up is a theatrical trailer.
The Final Word
Come for the sleepwalking cannibal; stay for Eddie's dark sense of humor, sharp characterization, and compelling exploration of what it is that drives an artist. It's an artfully crafted dark comedy/drama with a half-naked giant running around with some poor bastard's liver in his mouth, and I'm pretty sure that's code for Highly Recommended.