On Friday, May 24, Netflix quietly released one of the year’s best films: The Perfection. Starring Allison Williams and co-written/directed by The Matador filmmaker Richard Shepard, it takes an erotic and violent journey into the world of classic musical (borrowing heavily from South Korean revenge films along the way). The Perfection’s twisty premise and gutsy execution make for one of the year’s boldest genre films, and it may just leave audiences — audiences who exist on the same outrageous wavelength as Shephard’s movie— hunting for the perfect second-half of an art/horror double-feature.

Enter Eddie the Sleepwalking Cannibal.

Boris Rodriguez’s criminally underseen — and, if we’re being honest with one another, criminally over-titled — film delves deep into some of the same themes found in The Perfection. Both movies explore the links between creation and trauma, between artists and the single-minded pursuit of greatness, and the unseen evil of institutions that nurture these talents. More importantly, though, both films find a perfect balance of violence and comedy to drive their point home.

In Eddie the Sleepwalking Cannibal, Danish painter Lars Olafson (Thure Lindhardt) was the toast of the art world…ten years ago. His signature series of paintings — conceived after suffering an unnamed accident — made him one of the most in-demand talents in the industry, and Olafson seemed poised for a long and lasting career. Then his inspiration ran out. Now, a decade later, his star has all but faded, leading him to a small art school in the Canadian village of Koda Lake.

The faculty at the school are starstruck — much like Anton’s sustained admiration of Charlotte in The Perfection — but Olafson swears that he will not be painting during his stay in Koda Lake. Then he meets Eddie (Dylan Smith), the developmentally disabled nephew of the school’s biggest benefactor. When Lars is asked to share an apartment with Eddie, he soon learns that childhood trauma causes Eddie to sleepwalk at night, eating his way through the rabbits of the nearby forest. One fateful night, Eddie accidentally kills one of their neighbors while sleepwalking, reawakening the spark of genius inside Lars. The more people Eddie eats, the more masterpieces Lars creates; it isn’t long before the painter is as addicted to the destruction as the creation.

For Lars, the creative process cannot exist without trauma. In one scene, he confesses to Eddie that he was never a particularly excellent artist in his youth. He painted everything, of course — what he saw, what he imagined, and what he felt — and while the paintings always felt good, Lars knew, deep down, that real talent belonged to someone else. Until his accident. Not only is this Lars’s justification for leveraging trauma to create, but it is also his justification for not settling for a life of mediocrity. In the artistic world presented in Eddie, wanting to be a thing justified doing whatever it takes to be that thing (and yes, that can often mean letting someone get eaten by your sleepwalking roommate).

This is the same sentiment we see from Lizzie (Logan Browning) in The Perfection. As she and Charlotte begin their flirtation, Charlotte asks if she would ever leave the music academy of her own free will. Lizzie seems surprised. “The work, this special work,” she says with a confused look on her face. “It’s what’s expected of us.” Later, of course, we learn the truth about the “special work” that Anton and Paloma perform; like Lars, they are so convinced in the value of the perfect work of art that they are willing to carry forward centuries of sexual abuse. Once Lizzie loses the use of her hand, she ceases to exist in the eyes of the couple. Violence is only justified, it seems, when it is enacted on those with supreme talent.

Both films also go to great lengths to depict this violence as cyclical, not a one-off instance of teachers gone wrong. One of the running gags in Eddie is the local NPR station, which can often be heard in the background breathlessly praising the depravity of classical compositions. “Now treat your ears to the wondrous music of Giuseppe Verdi as Act Two of ‘Il trovatore’ recounts how a mother throws her own child into a burning fire,” one radio host whispers in exultation. “Simply brilliant.” The joke here is that art has always been violent; no matter how many times society descends into a moral panic over the latest cinematic trend, the graphic nature of any horror film or video game — sexual and otherwise — often pales to the narratives we ingest under the guise of high art. Just as Backoff Academy has practiced its monstrous methods for generations, so too can even the most austere forms of artistic expression be traced back to violent origins.

Through its blend of both comedy and horror, Eddie and The Perfection also grapple with the legacy of artists who produce important works but commit heinous deeds. This is an especially timely message in a decade where so many works of art have undergone a public reexamination. Is the value of transgender representation on television worth one actor’s history of sexual assault? Is a musician’s catalog of music made irredeemable by credible allegations of pedophilia? Lars’ girlfriend, manager, and boss all reinforce the notion that his work is all that matters; after the killings escalate and things go south for both Lars and Eddie, one character cheerfully notes that the city of Koda Lake named a building after the artist (but quickly clarifies that it was named after “Lars Olafson the painter, of course, not the murderer”). Neither film tries to hide its message—Anton is no more deserving of redemption than Lars himself—but they also aren’t afraid to end on a darkly comic note, each showing the artists’ gifts being put to good use in the world (even if it’s just to make Anton pay for his actions).

The major difference between the two films is that Eddie is more comfortable with its own sense of humor. While the black sense of humor in The Perfection pops its head out in unexpected ways —such as the literal needle scratch when Lizzie and Charlotte begin their revenge story in earnest—Eddie possesses more conventional comedy beats. There’s more than a little Fargo in the film’s snowswept locals and its story of an ambitious everyman who keeps digging a hole to escape his previous misdeeds. Lindhardt is a considerable talent for any film, let alone a low-budget movie shot in Canada; his work in 2000’s A Place Nearby, for example, helped make the film Denmark’s official submission to that year’s Academy Awards. Without the sincerity that he offers as an actor, Eddie would never be able to rise above its own ridiculous premise. No one can accuse either cast of giving anything less than their best work.

There is one final constant between both films. The gatekeepers of art — the people who make decisions on who makes a name for themselves and who toils in obscurity — prey on the innocent, be it young musical prodigies with sick mothers or challenged adults unable to fend for themselves. As always, this cruelty is performed under the auspices of creating great works of art. “Art is bigger than me,” Lars’s manager sneers in Eddie as he tries to goad the artist back to his canvas. “It makes me do its bidding.” The Perfection’s Anton uses similar logic to justify his abuse of one of his young students. “She needs to be invited to perform for us as a vessel of God,” he explains with an angelic smile. No matter the misdeeds, the true monsters in these films regard themselves as middlemen to a higher calling. And when the blood flows, each film offers their own unique catharsis for what these men and their true believers deserve.



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