In an effort to bring you an on-the-ground view of Nerd-culture, our Jason Tabrys is overseeing a series of guest-posts, written by his contributors from the now (sadly) hibernating nerd cult and culture site, WeLoveCult.com. This time, Tarun Shanker, WeLoveCult’s former chief movie reviewer and now contributor to ScreenInvasion.com, went to the Tribeca Film Festival to see the indie horror/comedy Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal, here’s his review.
Cannibalism has always been the most misunderstood of all the arts (right behind collage), but with writer-director Boris Rodriguez’’s darkly comedic debut feature, Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal, this crime against humanity becomes accessible material, rich with commentary on the life of the artist and artistic process. The cliche that the creation of art is full of torture and suffering is taken a step further and literalized: torn limbs and half-devoured chunks of flesh are the pain and destruction, yet at the same time, pools of blood become wells of inspiration. It’’s an entirely gory process that rips a victim apart and lays their organs bare in order to lead to the birth of something new. And somehow, Rodriguez makes this all play out before us in a rather light, amusing fashion as his artist embarks on that delightful journey.
The artist here is Lars, a famous painter in the midst of a ten-year-long rut, who takes a teaching job at a struggling art school in the tiny snow-covered town of Koda Lake, Canada. Just days within arriving, he is asked to take in a strange, mute, man-child named Eddie after Eddie’s rich aunt (and the school’s main benefactor) passes away, leaving him without a guardian. As Lars is getting acquainted with his middle-of-nowhere home and the quiet giant under his roof, he wakes up one night to discover that Eddie is also a sleepwalker –– and not a gentle one either. The carcass in Lars’’s backyard and the blood stains around the somnambulist’’s mouth are obvious enough hints there. But Lars isn’’t so much disgusted by the sight as he is overtaken and driven by this newfound inspiration. In a fervor, he rushes back inside and successfully completes his first masterpiece in years.
MORE AFTER THE JUMP
Thus, the film kicks into gear and finds its strongest comedy in the thorny, moral ambiguities of Lars’’s actions as he grapples with using his new cannibal friend as a personal muse. The opening scene itself neatly sets up the tone when Lars hits a deer on the road on his way into town. He gets out of his car and finds it still alive, suffering and immobile, so he attempts to mercy kill the animal with a rock to the head. But it survives the blow and wails in pain, so Lars hits it again. And again. And again as it refuses to die and Lars uncomfortably turns to find a police officer waiting behind him.
Eddie approaches awkward, cartoonish quandaries like this with deadpan performances and the utmost seriousness, allowing the smallest things to generate the biggest laughs. Between Lars’ attempts to rationalize the deaths of “bad” people to Eddie (and himself), and his efforts to understand the mechanics of Eddie’’s condition, there’’s hardly a dull scene in the entire film and the characters are rarely anything less than lovable. Star Thure Lindhardt (who looks like a mix between Simon Pegg and Woody Harrelson) perfectly captures the earnest and good-natured side of Lars so that he’s relatable even as his decisions get increasingly questionable, while Dylan Smith finds the innocence and agony in Eddie that’ll compel any viewer to want to give the lug a big hug at the risk of losing an appendage. And by specifically making Eddie a sleepwalking cannibal, rather than a zombie or a werewolf, Rodriguez opens the script up to more surprises as we only discover the rules and tricks to handling Eddie whenever Lars does. There’’s no lengthy history or mythology that the audience must impatiently wait for the characters to discover.
Besides, that’’s not really the point. Despite the upfront title, the film is just as concerned with Lars and his problems. His blank canvas is not so different from the pristine white snow that Eddie paints with gore. There’’s similarities between the consequences of their art too: as both artists sink deeper and deeper into their work, the people closest to them are the ones that suffer most. And then, of course, there is the artistic process itself. Can one be inspired by a work and still create something original? By relying on Eddie’’s work for inspiration, Lars is essentially cannibalizing another’’s art for his own sustenance.
In some way, that’’s even what Boris Rodriguez does in the creation of his film. He places the Lars and Eddie relationship in the center and bounces it between a few cannibalized archetypes to give the third act a bit of unpredictability. Sometimes they resemble that inspiring artist-muse relationship, like when a magical Will Smith comes to help a struggling Matt Damon magically rediscover something within himself and then magically disappears into the ether in Bagger Vance. Other times, they are closer to the sweet buddy comedy relationship between the cynical big brother and naive little brother types in Of Mice and Men and Rain Man. And whenever Lars cannot control the addiction to his renewed artistic talents, he veers towards the mad Victorian scientist and pushes Eddie to be the dark, victimized subject.
As a result, a lot of Eddie seems awfully familiar, even with the novelty of the premise. The little details, from the bleak Fargo-esque setting to Eddie’’s very zombie-like behavior are fun little accoutrements, but plot-wise, most of the film (with the exception of the ending) sticks to a rather standard structure, rarely veering off to do something terribly different or wild. Problems escalate in expected ways and most set-ups are telegraphed obviously enough that the pay-offs aren’’t too hard to see coming. Rodriguez basically gives a facelift to scenes and stories we’’ve seen before, but on the other hand, this blending of tried-and-true elements is also why the film works. Eddie’ is far more entertaining than most films about the artistic process and it has more substance than the usual horror-comedy fare. In fact, it’’s written, acted and crafted well enough to even make you wonder: what sort of ghastly deeds did Boris Rodriguez have to perform to acquire such inspiration?