Review: Eddie the Sleepwalking Cannibal (2012)

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Cast: Thure Lindhart, Georgina Reilly, Dylan Smith
Director: Boris Rodriguez
Country: Canada | Denmark
Genre: Comedy | Horror
Official Trailer: Here


Editor’s Notes: Eddie the Sleepwalking Cannibal opens in limited release today, April 5th. If you’ve already seen the film we’d love to hear your thoughts on it, or if you’re looking forward to seeing it this weekend, please tell us in the comments section below or in our new Next Projection Forums.

Inspiration, that oddest of things, arrives to us all from the most unexpected of places at the most inconvenient of times. Rarely do the rituals we commonly adopt to aid the creative drive—in whatever form we choose to manifest it, from the traditional arts to computer programming to whatever we turn to in order to express ourselves—have as much impact as those sudden bursts of uncontrollable compulsion, the circumstances of which we become desperate to recreate. It’s this inspiration the famed but fading painter Lars experiences when he bears witness to the awful act alluded to in the title of Eddie the Sleepwalking Cannibal, a delightfully strange Danish-Canadian horror-comedy from writer/director Boris Rodriguez.

There’s a wicked amusement to the heavily gory capitalisation Rodriguez makes on the promise of his premise, his creatively gruesome effects and the absurdity of their implementation the source of most of the film’s laughs…

eddie3The eponymous character is a mute entrusted to Lars’ care when he joins the faculty of an isolated Canadian art school, a task he originally takes to with some chagrin until a midnight evisceration of an unfortunate rabbit sees him possessed—not unlike Eddie, wreaking havoc in his slumber—by the creative drive. There’s a wicked amusement to the heavily gory capitalisation Rodriguez makes on the promise of his premise, his creatively gruesome effects and the absurdity of their implementation the source of most of the film’s laughs, the remainder of which come from the baffled reactions of Lars. Thure Lindhart, so mesmeric as a man faced with the incomprehensible horror of addiction in Keep the Lights On, fulfils much the same sort of role in a comic context here, stunned by the hideousness of what he beholds and yet compelled to further facilitate it. It’s a sullen shame, then, that the humour found in the film’s horror finds no match in the more mundane interactions of Rodriguez’s wider cast of characters.

There’s an obvious influence from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with Lars growing ever closer to Murnau’s antagonist as the film progresses. Lindhart plays him with even helpings of earnest kindness and manic malice, his impromptu possessions in the throes of his artistic drive consuming him and replacing the underlying nicety of his personality with an amusingly manipulative drive that’s happy to use Eddie’s somnambulistic escapades for his own ends. This Jekyll and Hyde-inspired character division, paired with the monstrous force of this sleepwalking brute, allows Rodriguez an exploitative twist on Freud’s psychic apparatus, with Eddie as the nocturnal id to the daytime Lars’ staunch super-ego.

Rodriguez’s would be a better film were it able to reconcile its lofty ambition with its comic expression. It’s nice to have a writer pair high aims with “low” comedy—indeed it’s ideal, in so many ways—yet the film lacks the discipline to entirely congeal the disparate elements of its gory style and pensive substance.

eddie4Perhaps it seems fatuous to attribute such psychological depth to so knowingly silly a story, but exploitation is nothing if not a means to subtly ask serious questions of us and our behaviour. In his wonderful film The Intruder—long lamented as the sole production among more than 400 to not turn a profit—Roger Corman made the earnest mistake of discussing social issues openly. He made more money and impact both with the likes of The Trip and The Masque of the Red Death, when dressing his commentary in genre tropes and pulpy presentation. Eddie the Sleepwalking Cannibal does the same, its wildly weird premise and the liberal spatter with which it portrays it belying a frank take on issues of artistic integrity.

Rodriguez’s would be a better film were it able to reconcile its lofty ambition with its comic expression. It’s nice to have a writer pair high aims with “low” comedy—indeed it’s ideal, in so many ways—yet the film lacks the discipline to entirely congeal the disparate elements of its gory style and pensive substance. Perhaps not quite silly enough, it’s at its strongest when indulging in the exploitative potential its title offers, far weaker when trying to expand itself to dramatic territory. Certain comic failings only further distance the intent from the effect: the recurring appearance of a sombre cop positively chafed with dry wit offers its moments, but more often jars with the comic sensibility of the scenario; equally distracting, and irritatingly unnecessary, is Pontypool star Stephen McHattie’s extended cameo as Lars’ art dealer. For all its successes, and even those it just fails to grasp, Eddie the Sleepwalking Cannibal should be greatly admired; for all its failings, it cannot quite be adored.

[notification type=”star”]62/100 ~ OKAY. For all its successes, and even those it just fails to grasp, Eddie the Sleepwalking Cannibal should be greatly admired; for all its failings, it cannot quite be adored.[/notification]

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.