Some of you may be familiar with a directing duo that brought REC and REC 2 to the world. The two of them then split off to direct a film on their own- one to direct REC 3: GENESIS (a film I’ve yet to see) and the other to the focus of this review, SLEEP TIGHT. Jaume Balaguaro spent his time creating a beast entirely different from his work with the REC franchise, but one that’s equally as tight and spooky, if not more due to the plausibility of the story.
SLEEP TIGHT follows a concierge of an apartment building named Cesar that lacks the ability to be happy. To deal with the frustration and loneliness he longs for people to feel as unhappy as he does even if he has to take it upon himself to do so. One tenant, Clara, particularly catches his fancy as he makes it his mission to make her life a living hell in any way he possibly can.
The film starts off innocently enough with a monologue about Cesar’s inability to be happy then slowly unravels the nature of his disturbing behavior. The best trick Balaguero plays is for some reason as deplorable as Cesar is, you still can’t help but feel tense when he’s on the verge of being caught. As a portrait of a vastly inhuman character the film is fascinating in its ability to make me both want him to get what’s coming to him and not want him to at the same time.
Luis Tosar is brilliant as the utterly insane Cesar- playing the character with a subtle intensity and unsettling calmness that’s completely engrossing and entertaining to watch. His key victim played by Marta Etura is so likable that she is the perfect counterpart to Tosar’s cruelty, because feeling bad for what he’s putting her through was the only thing keeping me from feeling like enjoying Cesar’s reign of terror was somehow revealing something shameful about myself.
Luckily, in the end I don’t think one necessarily “enjoys” what Cesar does to his neighbors so much as one is just glued to the screen with anticipation of what he’ll do next or what he’ll say to get out of a situation. Each situation escalates to an unbearable level until Cesar really starts to expose how terrifying he can be and what he’s capable of. The final scenes of the film showcase Tosar’s frightening intensity and psychosis which makes for a supremely intense and disturbingly plausible finale.
Though the word is never used in the film, the portrait SLEEP TIGHT paints of Cesar is that of a sociopath. There’s no remorse shown for anything the character does or says to ruin his neighbor’s lives. As a character profile SLEEP TIGHT excels on almost every level and left me just as stunned terms of entertainment value as it does as a sobering punch in the stomach. Balaguero proves he can also handle slow and patient horror making him a real force to be reckoned with in the genre.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)