The most disappointing thing about Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal is that very few people seem to have heard of it. I was certainly unfamiliar with the film when I walked into its screening at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, only to find that it would sit firmly as one of my favourites from the festival so far. Its premise sees famous Danish painter Lars Olaafsen (Thure Lindhardt) moving to Canada to teach at an art school, having painted nothing for ten years. He agrees to take care of a member of his class called Eddie (Dylan Smith), a mute whose recently deceased aunt was a big patron of the school, but soon discovers that he’s taking on more responsibility than he expected – as you might expect from the title.
That’s not all there is to the plot, though: Lars can only find inspiration in blood, guts, and gore, and Eddie’s violent somnambulism is the perfect muse. With only a little bit of cannibalism, encouraged by leaving windows unlocked and occasionally dragging dead rabbit bait to a preferred victim, Lars can take advantage of Eddie’s unconscious deeds to sell art again, the proceeds from which he donates to the school to win the affections of fellow teacher Lesley (Georgina Reilly), a pretty and talented sculptor, and also one of very few not wowed by Lars’ reputation. The conflicted character dynamic adds an additional edge to the film, and complicates the focus of the audience’s empathy: we feel sorry for Lars; we feel sorry for Eddie; and we also feel somewhat sorry for the poor digested Canadians.
It’s funny, of course; I would hope that it’s immediately apparent that this is a black comedy, and not a serious morality study, but I should clarify that it’s not the sort of dark, serious comedy that was the festival’s earlier Killer Joe. This is more like Black Sheep, but more original and charming. The mentally handicapped Eddie is also portrayed with remarkable tastefulness, despite the obvious night-time quirks of the character, but it’s unfair to put those under scrutiny – after all, this is a comedy, and Eddie’s habits aren’t a mockery of the less intelligent. It’s worth mentioning that it’s also a bloody affair, but that shouldn’t come as so much of a surprise.
Canada’s snowy landscapes look brilliant in the panoramic shots, and there’s a feel of strong production value and polish throughout the film. The sequences in which Lars finds inspiration or paints are perfectly shot and edited; quick cuts with clever cinematography create a great sense of motion and creation, although occasionally it becomes painfully obvious that the cinematographer is intentionally hiding Lars’ creations or Lesley’s sculpture from our view. It’s not hard to see the reason why: original paintings are probably out of the budget, and it’s hard to create a prop convincingly representing a masterpiece or an amazing sculpture.
Even so, it drew me out of the film, and I can’t help but think there could have been a more subtle work-around rather than drawing the camera back whenever it wanders too close to the canvas. With its perfectly satisfying ending and great cast, though, Eddie stands out as one of my favourite black comedies of recent years. Lindhardt, Reilly, and Smith all put in wonderful performances, and the former two have an on-screen chemistry that adds the emotional touch the film really needed. This is Canada and Denmark’s joint response to Zombieland: an occasionally cheesy, completely humorous, and totally enjoyable comedy not for the weak-stomached. Like horror? You’ll love Eddie.