It’s not every day that horror fans can truly say that they’ve seen something original. Most of the time, the latest genre flicks that come and go, whether they’re good, bad, or, worst of all, lukewarm, rehash a supernatural villain or homicidal maniac that’s cut from some much older, overdone cloth: vampires, zombies, masked slashers. Been there, dragged our girlfriends to see all of them countless times.

But a mute, socially handicapped rube who feasts on human flesh during his times of slumber? Now that’s original. With his hilarious, and often gruesome, horror-comedy Eddie – The Sleepwalking Cannibal (which is currently screening as part of NYC’s Tribeca Film Festival), first-time writer/director Boris Rodriguez has brought to life one hell of a fresh concept.

Plot wise, Eddie – The Sleepwalking Cannibal centers on a world renown painter from Denmark, named Lars (and played by Thure Lindhardt), who, stuck in a ten-year creative rut, takes a teaching gig at an art school in the small town of Koda Lake, Canada; he also just so happens to take over a classroom in which Eddie (Dylan Smith), the local weirdo, hangs out despite the fact that he’s not actually a student. After Eddie’s aunt passes away, Lars reluctantly invites the speechless, though kind-hearted, eccentric to move into his house, where Lars quickly discovers that whenever Eddie is unhappy, his sleeping habits include roaming around all zombie-like in his tighty-whiteys and tearing both human and animal exteriors apart with his teeth. And, fortunately for Lars, Eddie leaves behind vivid piles of carnage that provide just the right amount of artistic inspiration.

Rodriguez strikes a tone that’s drolly Fargo-esque while also satiating the viscera-desiring gorehound crowd; meaning, Eddie – The Sleepwalking Cannibal is a real crowd-pleaser, one that should, hopefully, find a home amidst folks who fully appreciate flicks like the ones on our recent list of the Best Horror-Comedies of All Time . Complex sat down with Rodriguez over the weekend, the morning after Eddie’s successful NYC premiere, to discuss the wild idea’s origins, his approach to making both the humor and horror work equally well, and why he’d rather you see it in a theater than in your crib.

Interview by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

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Eddie had its Tribeca premiere last night—how was that experience?
It was very intense for me. It was the first time I saw it with a large crowd of people who had waited in line and bought tickets, so, yeah, it was the first time that there was that sort of higher expectation. But I loved it. any time you screen it with a different crowd, it’s a completely different experience.

And this movie is one that will definitely play better when it’s seen amongst larger, energetic crowds.
I totally designed it for a crowd. When you make a small budget movie, of course people, especially distributors, know that the market is really about Video On-Demand these days, and then you’ve got DVD and television, eventually. So they’re concerned when you’re taking the deliberate approach of making it better for the theater.

There’s a lot of fear that if it’s really good for the theater, then that will sacrifice the quality once it gets to Video On-Demand and other home video markets afterwards, but they’ve been very supportive, now that the film has screened and generated such a positive reaction, and they understand what it is I was doing and how much better it is in a theater. And ultimately, it generates the right kind of reaction, and that enthusiasm should spill over into whatever happens afterwards, I think.

The first reaction I had after watching the film was, “Finally, someone has thought of a truly original idea for a horror movie.” Eddie - The Sleepwalking Cannibal touches on some familiar tropes, but the core idea is one that really hasn’t been seen or done before. Where’d the idea originate from?
The idea actually didn’t even hit me initially—it hit a collaborator/friend I was working with at the time, named John Reynolds. He pitched it to me, and when he pitched it to me it was originally about a mute werewolf and a novelist, and it was set in the outer banks of North Carolina, by the sand dunes. Not just the craziness, but there was something about the idea of the destructive creative process that really struck a chord with me. I told him, “I want to do this in an almost autobiographical way,” and he said, “What? Are you insane? I just pitched you a retarded werewolf story—how can you do that autobiographically?” [Laughs.]

Once I explained to him that I meant the idea of the creative process and how far you will go for your art, he started to understand what I was taking out of it. So his desire for a wacky story and my desire to infuse it with my dark sensibilities created this other story. He went to L.A. and I took the idea up to Canada with me, and eventually the sand dunes became snow and the werewolf became a sleepwalking cannibal and the novelist became an artist.

And how you’d settle upon a sleepwalking cannibal, of all things?
I don’t know where that came from. [Laughs.] I think, though, that when we were collaborating, every time we used an existing convention, like the werewolf, you then had to deal with allof the existing mythology that came with a werewolf, and that just seemed tenuous and stressful, and it would take the story somewhere else. Like, do we really want to see another vampire movie? And if we did it like a zombie, I love zombie movies, but I wanted to do it as a movie where we’re doing something that’s close to a zombie but we didn’t have the post-apocalyptic motley crew fighting off the hordes of the undead, because that’s what zombies movies are about—if you’re not killing at least 100 members of the undead, you don’t have a zombie movie.

So eventually we just decided that a sleepwalking cannibal was new, weird, and we could make up all of the rules as we went along.

You come from an art background, so how much of your own experiences and artistic motivations bled into the script and the character of Lars?
I think there’s both an inherent intensity and an uplifting quality to the art world, but there’s also an absurdity and a lot of highbrow B.S. in the art world. I wanted to see what happens if you really stretch both the ironies and the satire of the art world, but also celebrate the darker aspect of needing to be great and express yourself.

That is my background, and what makes the story so personal are the destructive aspects of my own creativity. Your career, your personal life, and everything else really seems to suffer when you really give yourself over to something.

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