Title: Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal
Director: Boris Rodriguez
Starring: Thune Lindhardt, Dylan Smith, Georgina Reilly, Al Goulem, Paul Braunstein, Stephen McHattie
A quirky but unfulfilling Canadian-Danish horror-comedy that offers up neither quite the deliciously mad slapstick-y gore of its title nor a more penetrating treatment of its character-rooted instincts, writer-director Boris Rodriguez’s “Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal” has a substantial helping of originality on its side, but not much in the way of inspired execution.
A one-time darling of the art scene, inspiration-starved, foreign-born painter Lars (Thune Lindhardt) takes a teaching position in the small, snowy town of Koda Lake, where he’s enthusiastically received by a school headmaster, Harry (Al Goulem), seeking to put his burgh on the map. His class comes with Eddie (Dylan Smith, resembling a brawny John Turturro), the lumbering, cereal-obsessed mute son of an important patron, and when she dies Lars agrees to take him in in order to preserve the promised funding in her will. It’s only then that Lars discovers the docile Eddie has a sleepwalking problem, during which he tends to, well, kill and eat things.
The rub? This bloodletting rekindles Lars’ artistic flame — so he’s less appalled than intrigued, and invested in figuring out a way to abet its continuation. While a couple folks go missing and Sheriff Verner (Paul Braunstein) eyes the new guy in town with increasing suspicion, Lars strikes up a relationship with colleague Lesley (Georgina Reilly), who’s also a sculptor. When Eddie’s symptoms seem to wane, Lars mulls over whether this burst of creativity has been enough, and if he should instigate unease in Eddie in order to try and revive his murderous disorder.
Even though it possesses a rather vivid title that seems to offer up a wink of knowing parody, “Eddie” is mostly rooted in a realistic tone. And despite the seemingly outlandish nature of its concept, there’s actually a good deal of intrigue baked into the story, which reads like a twisted, modernized spin on an old Edgar Allan Poe tale. It’s just that this is a thin, gruel-like version of it — even a pair of post-dénouement, add-on twists land with more of a pat than an oomph — not funneled with enough energy and cleverness through a singular viewpoint.
Working from a story by Jon Rannells, Rodriguez delivers a script that, in its streamlining, is downright malnourished for clarifying background and detail. There’s meant to be a connection in all the bloody violence to Lars’ past prolific period, which brought him such fame and acclaim, but Rodriguez fumbles away the chance to delve into this with any satisfying depth. The film’s set-up is utterly perfunctory (“It happened so long ago I didn’t think I needed to tell you — Eddie has always been… different”), and its dialogue and plotting so mechanical as to invite various flights-of-fancy as to whether this is all part of some elaborate rope-a-dope scheme.
Lindhart (“Keep the Lights On”) is an appealing enough peg upon which to hang this tale, and Reilly (rejoining her “Pontypool” co-star McHattie, who cameos as Lars’ frustrated agent, Ronny) is cute and engaging. But the acting isn’t strong enough to cancel out such lethargic, incomplete storytelling. In better hands, this could be a wickedly engaging story of outsized ambition and misguided inspiration by way of sort of a hybrid cross of “Fargo” and “Warm Bodies.” As is, it’s a mildly stimulating concept that never achieves imaginative lift.
NOTE: In addition to its theatrical engagements, “Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal” is also available on VOD.
Written by: Brent Simon