Speeding through the niveous Canadian backroads to his new job and new life, former celebrated artist Lars (Thure Lindhardt) smacks into a deer crossing the road. Though the animal manages to survive the accident, it remains unable to move and Lars ultimately decides to put it out of its misery. He equips himself with a rock and proceeds to smash its head, but it doesn't do the trick -- so he repeats, over and over, eliciting a hearty laugh out of the creature's reluctance to die. But as he hammers its skull, something inside of him awakens. This brutality is giving him inspiration.
Violence apparently stimulates Lars' brush -- an important fact, especially considering that the man hasn't made any new work in years (much to his art dealer Ronny's dismay). However, he ignores the urge to paint and starts his first day teaching at an art school in Koda Lake. Sitting in his classroom is mute 30-year-old Eddie (a pretty fantastic Dylan Smith), an oafish dude with the mind of a child and the gaze of a serial killer. It turns out that the academy is mostly funded by this guy’s wealthy Aunt, and out of courtesy they more or less babysit him throughout the week. As Lars continues his peaceful (read: boring) life, he happens upon his fellow faculty (including future love interest Leslie, played by Georgina Reilly) trying to figure out what to do with old Eddie, as his caretaker has just passed away. She had agreed to keep the school going so long as they found a home for her loved one, and without much fuss, Lars agrees to have Eddie live with him. The two slowly develop a warm friendship, but something strange happens -- in the middle of the night, his new roommate walks out in a somnambulant state and devours living things. This, of course, would be a cause for concern... except for the fact that the vicious murders satiate Lars's long-dormant artistic juices and enable him to create a number of pieces he then proceeds to sell, using the cash to enhance his school’s limited resources. Every death leads to a new piece of art, which in turn leads to a ludicrous sum of money. This process becomes addicting and eventually Lars begins manipulating Eddie to continue his nasty habit -- but how long before things (or his new roomie) come back to bite him in the ass?
'Eddie' is often terrifically funny, and the writers have a good time with the various ways the main character uses his buddy's appetite for blood. However, their work on the lead character is sometimes lazily sketched -- there's a number of instances where he seems to make decisions only because the authors need him to. Lars has absolutely no reason to invite a complete stranger to live with him (especially someone as weird and off-putting as Eddie), and it's quite absurd that he barely gives it a thought before agreeing to house the guy. Similarly, once his pal reveals his taste for the living, it makes little sense that Lars never once fears for his own life. As he eventually begins encouraging Eddie to keep the murder streak going, why doesn't he worry that the next victim might be himself, just a few rooms away? Though these oversights are irritating, they don't bring the movie down -- particularly because the film is so damn entertaining. It’s as if their lack of concern over these issues is contagious, because eventually it matters very little why Lars was so accommodating or unafraid of Eddie.
And despite these inconsistencies with his character, Lindhardt gives a very dedicated performance, being both a soft, warm individual and a conniving bastard. At the other corner, Dylan Smith is pretty tremendous in his portrayal of the mentally handicapped, speech-deprived people-eater. It's a tricky role to nail, but the actor's subtle mannerisms go a long way, and when he gets vicious it's appropriately disturbing. Those expecting a heavy dose of gore out of the titular character's gruesome hobby will likely be unimpressed, as Rodriguez is much more interested in the comedy surrounding the blood and guts rather than the blood and guts themselves. While he doesn't exactly skirt the issue, it does feel a tad bit neutered and slightly prosaic for a movie mining laughs out of manslaughter.
"Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal" won't change your life, but it's far from a mere trifle. Save for some screenwriting hiccups (which are eventually overshadowed anyway) and a general lack of flair in the horror department, it's a very competent black comedy, one that should please audiences looking for something with some bite. [B-]
This is a reprint of our review from the Tribeca Film Festival 2012.