Film Review: Eddie the Sleepwalking Cannibal

A dark comedy driven by spot-on digs at academia, cutthroat art-world competition and the quest for inspiration, this offbeat picture faces an uphill battle: Cannibal comedies (and there are many) are a tough sell and <i>Eddie </i>doesn't pander to the

Ten years ago, Danish artist Lars Olafssen was a closely watched player in the high-stakes world of trendy art dealers, critics and collectors. But the nervous breakdown that followed his first show of violent, edgy images derailed his career. He hasn’t painted a thing since.

Lars’ pragmatic dealer, Ronny (Stephen McHattie), hoping that a radical change of scenery might get his client’s creative juices flowing again, secures him a job at down-at-the-heels Koda Lake Art School in Canada, located in the middle of frozen nowhere and kept afloat by the largesse of a single donor, whose generous support comes with a single condition: that her hulking nephew, Eddie (Dylan Scott Smith), be allowed to study there. He's quiet—mute, in fact—mild-mannered and hard-working, so having him in classes isn't a hardship, except when it comes to giving feedback on his work, which is of the kind that the doting parents of six-year-olds display on refrigerator doors.

The Dean (Alain Goulem) doesn't care about much of anything beyond keeping his little sinecure, and Lars' new next-door neighbor (Peter Michael Dillon) is an embittered creep with a noisy dog and a penchant for fraternizing with pretty students. But Lars quite likes sculptor Lesley (Georgina Reilly), and she seems to take a shine to him as well, which is part of the reason he agrees to let Eddie move in with him after the death of his aunt, whose will stipulates that unless the school takes responsibility for Eddie's care, it won't get a cent of the substantial endowment earmarked for its ongoing upkeep.

Eddie is as childish as his paintings would suggest, but he has a certain pound-puppy appeal that makes Lars think he can put up with his odd roommate until other arrangements are made. That is, until the first time he discovers the nearly naked Eddie sleepwalking in the snow, his face smeared with blood from a half-eaten rabbit carcass. Ick…except that he's suddenly overcome with the urge to paint again. Not only is Lars thrilled to have found new inspiration, but the sale of his new work fattens the school's bottom line: He's a star again.

That nothing good can come of the relationship between Lars and his unlikely muse goes without saying. Nothing except a series of twisted variations on the theme of how far Lars will go to hang onto his new cachet. Writer-director Boris Rodriguez favors the grim smile over the guffaw, and Eddie the Sleepwalking Cannibal nails the desperate one-upmanship of career academics, ratcheted up by the fact that Koda Lake is so far off the hot art-school radar that the odds of any faculty member moving up to a more prestigious institution are slim to none. But what holds the cannibal carnage and the comedy of high-toned backbiting together is star Thure Lindhardt, last seen in the critically acclaimed drama Keep the Lights On. His scarily nuanced performance paints Lars as the most disturbing kind of monster: the one whose actions don't just make sense to him, they actually make objective sense within the context of a ruthlessly competitive world where second chances are too rare to squander.