Sunday, August 05, 2012

The Fantasia Daily, 2012.17 (4 August 2012): Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal, Grabbers, and Revenge: A Love Story

Once I saw I was running too late to catch Berserk, I figured some brunch may be a good idea, and remembered Kurt Halfyard raving about a place called Cacao 70 earlier in the festival (and also still highly wired from the mocchachino, hours later). So I figured I'd try that out - an hour would surely be enough time to get in and out, right?

Apparently not - it was fifteen minutes after I was seated before someone took my order, and 50 minutes after that before my breakfast came. Maybe they were short-staffed or something, but really, how long does it take to make a waffle? A good waffle, with delicious melted chocolate and caramelized bananas, but honestly...

Combine that with not wanting to see Excision again and the short program opposite it being in French, and it was a short day that maybe should have been shorter - by the time midnight came, I was full of poutine and couldn't make it through Revenge.

Horrible photography? Sure!

Boris Rodriguez and company, Boris Rodriguez and company The Q&A for Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal was a good one; Boris Rodriguez is local and had a lot of friends and family there. Dylan Smith, second from the right, played Eddie, and there was a fair amount of "we can joke about it now, but damn, I almost got frostbite" when they discussed shooting him running aorund out in the snow in his underwear. Real snow, real cold.

"Attack of the Brainsuckers" filmmakers Fantasia's Nicolas Archambault with "Attack of the Brainsuckers" co-writer Chris Bavota and director Sid Zarforlin. Their short played before Grabbers, and was a pretty good one (loved the sci-fi-loving little girl in it), and they mentioned that they had come to the festival for years but this was their first time with a film.

OK, time to hit the metro. My plan is Blood-C, The Sorcerer and the White Snake, Berserk, Columbarium, Poongsan, and Hail.

Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 4 August 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, 35mm)

We've all heard (or used) some variation on "my art comes from a dark place" before; there's also its close relative "suffering for one's art". Not exactly the inspiration you'd expect for a movie named "Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal" - which, not surprisingly once you accept that premise, turns out to be more about other people suffering for ones art. By proxy.

At one time a brilliant painter, Lars Olafsson (Thure Lindhardt) hasn't produced new work in years, and is now starting a teaching job at an art school in rural Canada. A recent bequest to the school requires it to see to the well-being of the benefactor's nephew, Eddie (Dylan Smith), a tall, simple mute of a man, and since he and Lars hit it off, Eddie winds up staying at Lars's place. It turns out that Eddie had a sleepwalking issue as a child, which involved attacking and eating small animals without knowing it, and it returns his first night in a new house. Except now he's bigger, the issue escalates... and when he sees the result, Lars is suddenly painting again.

The way Eddie approaches the artistic process is interesting. Many movies have played with the idea of artists claiming that a lasting great work is being worth sacrifice, but the merit of the art in the larger world is seldom the issue here; it's all what Lars will do or allow, directly or indirectly, to be the one who creates it. Writer/director Boris Rodriguez never actually shows completed artwork, but does a great job of showing how an empty canvas can draw or taunt an artist so that the audience gets a feel for the forces acting on Lars, and how it can cause him to respond in terrible ways.

Really, Lars is a heck of a role, and Thure Lindhardt is pretty much perfect in it. He seems to shrink and expand along with Lars's connection to his art, and even after Lars has enabled monstrous things, there's a humility to him that keeps the character quite appealing - it's that quality being stripped away that makes Lars seem his worst. He's also got a natural, unforced chemistry with Dylan Smith as the title character. Eddie is interesting on his own, as well - Smith is expressive without words or much exaggeration in his facial expressions, and he embraces the man's childlike nature without seeming to play an overgrown kid. Then, of course, he changes his whole performance when Eddie sleepwalks, in a fog but also far more sharp and decisive.

For as much as things feel real, they play into a plot that is more than a bit absurd, and Rodriguez shows a wonderfully twisted since of humor about it. The mayhem is gross but also played larger-than-life, and the radio is a great running joke. The complex main characters are countered by simple, funny supporting ones, particularly Stephen McHattie as Lars's agent, Alain Goulem as the ever-optimistic school administrator, and Paul Braunstein as the local constable. Georgina Reilly splits the difference as Lars's love interest, mixing personality and easy charm with enough substance to play off Lindhardt very well indeed.

Rodriguez does a really fine job mixing the movie's two tones, building Eddie so that it just needs the right nudge to go from funny to serious and back again, getting every point he's looking to make across from the first scene. The operatic soundtrack is well-chosen, and he makes good use of the wintry, barren environment without overdoing it as symbolism.

There's a lot of ways that this movie could have been overdone, but most if not all are avoided, and avoided without feeling like the film has been neutered in any way. "Eddie" has an out-there premise and some odd humor, but it's also quite smart and savvy when at its best.

(Dead link to) review at EFC.


* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 4 August 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, 35mm or DCP)

Even if the name of Grabbers didn't make one think of the monsters in Tremors, the rest of the movie would, in the best possible way. It has the things that this sort of movie needs to succeed - a cryptozoological threat and an enjoyably eccentric cast of characters, with the latter naturally providing humor from their interactions while still having the sort of ingenuity needed to counter the former's very real danger.

Soon after the crew of a fishing boat mysteriously disappears near Erin Island, Ireland, another boat arrives, this one a ferry bringing model Dublin Garda Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley) to work alongside CiarĂ¡n O'Shea (Richard Coyle). The two events aren't related; the island's other local officer just needs someone reliable to share duties with oft-hungover O'Shea while on holiday. Of course, when a pod of pilot whales washes up on sure, mutilated, and local lobsterman Paddy Barrett (Lalor Roddy) catches a small "sea monster" in his trap, things start to get hairy for the cops and marine ecologist Adam Smith (Russell Tovey). It seems that this never-before-seen organism feeds by sucking its victims' blood, and can do so from a distance, but the good news is that it reacts poorly to alcohol.

Yes, writer Kevin Lehane means to have some fun with certain Irish stereotypes, and if you don't foresee large chunks of the last act involving the characters "defending themselves" in the island's pub, you are very easily surprised. It's good fun, though, in part because it never seems to be the result of laziness or a celebration of boorishness - there's thought put into how this is deployed, the characters are different sorts of drunks, and O'Shea's alcoholism doesn't suddenly become a good thing. Grabbers isn't a one-joke movie earlier on, and it doesn't become one in its last act.

An even more pleasant surprise is that while "straight-laced cop has to get drunk to save the day" is pretty much inevitable, Lisa is actually a lively character from minute one, chipper, confident, and capable rather than being a humorless hard-ass. Why, she and Smith even flirt adorably, much to O'Shea's consternation. She is fun just about every second that she is on-screen, which holds true for just about the entire cast; it's an enjoyable ensemble of actors and characters that each has a distinct personality and who all work well together; there's nary a weak link to be found.

The monsters are as much fun as the humans, establishing themselves as a threat early on and actually scaling nicely - director Jon Wright has exciting scenes in a bathroom and then increasingly larger environments before getting to an SUV being chased on an open road (with the tentacled beast looking and moving much better than such things usually do on land). The effects work is nice - the CGI is often aided by darkness, but still looks good, and the practical effects are actually effective rather than lame and rubbery.

Wright creates a fun atmosphere without winking at the audience too much; there is seldom a gag that doesn't arise naturally from the characters and he's not looking to gross the audience out with blood and mutilation. The big finale is a proper action set piece, the soundtrack is occasionally slyly funny (Wright and composer Christian Henson opt to pay homage to the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment of Fantasia at one point).

It's a genuinely entertaining movie from what could have been a highly annoying premise. Charming monster movies aren't a dime a dozen, so this one is worth checking out.

(Dead link to) review at EFC.

Fuk sau che chi sei (Revenge: A Love Story)

N/A (out of four)
Seen 4 August 2012 in Concordia University Cinema de Seve (Fantasia 2012, video)

I strongly suspect that while Revenge: A Love Story is many things, a midnight movie is not one of them. It's got a fractured timeline, events re-examined from different perspectives, and what seems like a really tight, intricately constructed story.

It seems to, because I was out for a good chunk of it. Not the movie's fault at all - it starts with grisly, memorable imagery (murders of pregnant women who had the fetuses snatched from their wombs) and what I did see looked like a pretty great crime story. It's going on my list of "screeners I want", that's for sure.

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