Amusingly casting a somnambulant, flesh-eating weirdo as a struggling artist’s much-needed muse, Canadian-Danish genre mashup “Eddie” contemporarily tackles the rarely overlapping areas of parasomnia, cannibalism and creative block. This bizarro but largely effective debut by scribe-helmer Boris Rodriguez features a well-calibrated perf by Dane Thure Lindhardt (“Keep the Lights On”) as a once-visionary painter who, while teaching at a Canadian art school, discovers that the vision of freshly mauled flesh sets his creative juices flowing again. Premise and sharp execution will assure a cult following for this English-language item, but the lack of subtext or emotional resonance will hamper wider crossover.
The opening scene sets the tone, as formerly renowned avant-garde artist Lars (Lindhardt) hits a stag with his car while on the way to his new job at a school in the middle of the Canuck wild. It’s badly hurt but still breathing, and Lars tries to relieve the beast of its suffering by hitting it with a large stone. Repeatedly. Eventually, the police turn up and ask him what he thinks he’s doing.
The first sequence establishes the intimate link between the painter and death that will provide the motor for the story, after Lars takes it upon himself to look after student Eddie (Dylan Smith). A talentless, hulking mute who’s related to one of the school’s major donors, Eddie is practically thrust into Lars’ lap when his caretaker dies (the rookie teacher’s reasons for taking Eddie in are not entirely clear, though it’s possible he’s trying to impress a cute colleague). When Lars discovers one night that his charge is a sleepwalking cannibal, the sighting has an odd side effect: The artist’s inspiration comes flowing back to him like never before.
Rodriguez subsequently exploits the opposing forces tugging at Lars to good effect, as the need for his newly found creative fulfillment is like a drug: He pushes Eddie out of the house every night, then feverishly works to cover his ward’s blood-soaked, limb-strewn path. Eddie, meanwhile, can never remember anything come morning.
In its juxtaposition of humor and horror, the pic is more reminiscent of the Coen brothers’ seriocomic deadpan than the out-and-out comedic gore of early Peter Jackson. But what’s lacking is either dramatic weight, since Lars never seems to develop an identifiable emotion such as guilt or compassion for the zombie-like muse or his victims, or a better-developed satire of so-called tortured artists and the self-important art world, which receive only random-feeling jabs. Thankfully, Lindhardt keeps things together with an appealing performance that constantly oscillates between drama and very light, dry humor without sacrificing the slightly otherworldly nature of his character.
Though the HD image was sporadically jerky at the screening caught, lensing by d.p. Philippe Kress, bathed in milky white light, is otherwise solid, with good use of zooms and closeups. A recurring shot from the top of the easel, looking down at Lars, perfectly conveys the pressure artists must feel emanating from an empty canvas. Rather than underscoring the comedy, the orchestral music by David Burns intelligently plays up the atmosphere of dread.
Onscreen title was simply “Eddie,” though press materials refer to the pic as “Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal.”
Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (Cinemania), April 25, 2012. Running time: 79 MIN.
A Quiet Revolution Pictures, Fridtjhof Film, Majika Pictures presentation and production, in association with Capital Motion Picture Group, Super Channel, Makeamove. (International sales: Bavaria Film Intl., Geiselgasteig, Germany.) Produced by Michael A. Dobbin, Ronnie Fridthjof. Executive producers, Steve Moretti, Michael Solomon, Sven Schnell.
Directed, written by Boris Rodriguez, inspired by a story by Jonathan Rannells. Camera (color, HD), Philippe Kress; editor, Sara Bogh Jensen; music, David Burns; production designer, Colleen Marchand; costume designer, Sue Fijalkowska; sound (Dolby Digital), Thomas Arent; visual effects supervisor, Daniel French; casting, Sarah Kay, Jenni Lewis.
Cast: Thure Lindhardt, Georgina Reilly, Dylan Smith Alain Goulem, Stephen McHattie, Peter Michael Dillon, Simon Webb.