When I sleepwalk, I just raid the refrigerator for some late-night bad decisions, usually fried and greasy, but imagine if in your magical dream-state you turned into a bloodthirsty cannibal who tore people limb from limb? Couldn’t you just picture the utter horror? If you answered that question “No,” let out a gasp of relief because you’re a normal person who doesn’t know the taste of human flesh. If you answered that questions “Yes” though, you might want to report yourself to the local authorities for being stark-raving mad. Either that, or you just watched Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal - hopefully the latter.
Apparently it’s kill or be killed in the art world, as washed up painter/new art professor Lars (Thure Lindhardt) is tasked with playing caretaker to a student named Eddie (Dylan Smith) when the mute man’s wealthy family member passes away. Uncovering Eddie’s traumatic past, Lars starts to notice watching after his new housemate may be a more daunting task than he expected when Eddie’s deadly sleepwalking habits present themselves. Sure, it’s a no-brainer to report Eddie’s condition to the authorities, but that’s until Lars finds each death to be like a shot of creative adrenaline, leading to a brand new start for his artistic career. Uh-oh.
While the concept sounds like a weirdly surreal horror/thriller with some serious promise, the majority of Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal continuously feels like it only exists to set up a grand finale, running through some very clunky motions to get there. Hold on – before you say something like “but that’s what a story does,” let me ensure you I’m aware of this. A story establishes base material so the events taking place later all make sense – wonderful.
Writer/director Boris Rodriguez falters though in trying to lead viewers to his payoff, making his flick seem as if he had this great idea for an ending to a film about some dude who sleepwalks and eats people, but no reason for the scene to take place. Seemingly working backwards, what we’re left with is a frail, sometimes indecisive story which rushes pacing and forces less-than-entertaining material to simply set the stage for later events.
Those later events are at least exciting, so we get some sort of payoff in return for our invested viewing. Of course I’m referring to moments which feature Eddie doing his whole cannibal thing full-on, as he turns into this limb-tearing, throat-ripping, flesh-eating maniac only to wake up normal again the next day. Dylan Smith is intimidating, vicious, and animalistic when showing Eddie’s hypnotic state, but it’s impossible not to question the disproportionally audacious scenario Lars is monitoring – and I’m saying that as a true horror fan who has turned a blind eye to reason time and time again.
Alright, the whole sleepwalking cannibal thing I get, but what we see Eddie do, and what we watch Lars clean up the next morning, are all byproducts of something a freakin’ superhero would have to do. I’m talking about literally ripping a man’s head clean off his body. Unless you’ve got other-worldly powers which turn you into the hulk, I don’t buy Eddie’s murderous actions for a minute. He’s just a man, a simple man without torn up purple shorts or green skin – the level of violence achieved is astronomically blown out of proportion and hard to ignore, creating questions instead of answers – but it is bloody good fun that provides a decent jolt of energy to an almost lifeless script.
The relationship between Eddie and Lars remains another point of confusion while watching Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal, highlighting tumultuous moments of highs and lows that make Lars an easily hatable character. Sure, that’s exactly what Rodriguez wants you to do at points, but he did so a little too well, past the point of respectably hating and into the more dangerous territory of hating Lars to the point of dismissing him completely. Lindhardt gives a solid performance as the artist, but unfortunately his construction had him going through violent mood-swings like a pregnant teenager, never achieving consistency. He seems erratic just for the sake of being mysterious, which ends up being entirely more frustrating than twist-worthy.
Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal is one of those high-concept films that probably seemed hilarious on paper, but just wasn’t thought out cleverly enough to be adapted thoughtfully to feature film length. Rodriguez’s more fun scenes of death and destruction are overshadowed by too many questions and not enough explanation about Eddie’s unique condition, and there’s an unsatisfying feeling that Lars’ character comes off a little too hateful to actually let audiences embrace the emotional dramatics between him and Eddie. At the end, I’d felt like I’d been sleepwalking through the film myself, just coasting through a surface-level viewing that lacked substance and depth. Damn sleepwalking cannibals.
It's not often I question content in a horror film, but after sleepwalking dully through Rodriguez's movie, I can only shrug and ask myself what just happened - with the least amount of interest.