We are all of us creatures of habit, and what is fresh and exciting to us can quickly become stale and taken for granted through repetition. Addiction is in part about trying to recreate that first thrill and failing, but pursuing it nevertheless. Whether it’s finding a new high, a new turn-on or, in the case of this movie, artistic inspiration, an addict can gradually cut off his or her peripheral concerns and blindly follow a necessarily doomed pursuit.
That may be a slightly odd way to think about a film with a title like Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal (the on-screen title is simply “Eddie”) – although it lives up to that too. It’s a fun exploitation movie, but what kept me interested was that, to my surprise, it was genuinely about something, beyond a sleepwalking cannibal. Like the best B-movies, it actually has ideas in its demented little head.
The film is a Canadian-Danish coproduction concerning an artist, Lars (Thure Lindhardt), who takes up teaching art in a small Canadian town after ten years without a visit from the muse. Among his pupils is Eddie (Dylan Smith), who never speaks and appears to have learning difficulties; Lars ends up looking after Eddie himself when it transpires that the school is legally bound to look after him (his parents were killed in a freak accident). Although Eddie never speaks, he gets on with Lars; their pairing has a touch of “Of Mice and Men” about it. Like Lenny, Eddie kills rabbits. Unlike Lenny, he eats them – along with pretty much anything that moves.
Lars is, naturally, shocked by this development, and is ready to call the police when he is suddenly inspired to fill the blank canvas that has been haunting him for so long. He cannot account for it, but Eddie’s violent outbursts inspire him artistically, and he is faced with choosing between his compassion and his artistic ego. Compassion loses, and before long he is unleashing Eddie like Bela Lugosi’s Ygor, sending Boris Karloff’s Creature after his enemies in “Son of Frankenstein.”
Although it may seem a little cheap to use an apparently mentally challenged character in this way, it’s very clear very early that the monster in this movie is Lars, not Eddie, and that the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ effect applies to him. Eddie is acting in his nature; Lars is faced with a choice. Lindhardt gives a likeable performance as a decent man who finds artistic inspiration so elusive that he’ll take it where he can get it, and let the ends justify the means. The film is decidedly tongue-in-cheek – I doubt it could work if it weren’t, of if we could believe in Lars’s transformation – but its satire is not entirely flippant.
It’s a slight achievement, and it doesn’t really introduce any new ideas after the halfway point, but it doesn’t slow down either. It doesn’t overplay its comedy, although a laconic policeman played by Paul Braunstein, suspicious of the coincidence of Lars arriving in town and bodies disappearing, is particularly funny. Lance Henrikssen-look-a-like Stephen McHattie has a memorable bit-part, appearing in a scene where he and Lars discuss art in a way that put me in mind of ’80s Cronenberg (‘Art is bigger than me,’ he muses).
The ideas in “Eddie” aren’t groundbreaking; it’s hardly the first film featuring someone who kills for their art. But as silly as it gets, the script and central performance give Lars a believable edge in spite of everything. No, I can’t necessarily believe that he’d do what he does in this movie, but I can believe he’d put artistic inspiration first even when it’s morally unjustified, and I can believe in his bitterness towards those for whom it comes easily. I expected to have a good time at “Eddie,” and I did, but I was surprised to find I didn’t have to turn my brain off to do so.