Review: Sleep Tight
Review by Marc Patterson
César (Luis Tosar) is a perpetually unhappy man. Everyday is a waking hell for him. However, to the residents of the apartment building he works in, they would never know it. This faithful doorman is the embodiment of polite servitude, a man whose character you’d never question. Underneath his polished exterior is a psychotic madman. In extreme stalker style César keeps detailed notes about every resident, and one particular resident has caught his attention.
Clara (Marta Etura) is everything that César is not. She’s a young, beautiful, happy-go-lucky gal who wakes up every morning to an upbeat tune. If bluebirds flew through her window to happily chirp along with her as she’d danced her way through her morning routine I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised. And César both loves and hates her for it at the same time. He harbors deep resentment, which he speaks of to his bedridden mother – a woman who seems to be in some sort of coma, giving the film an obvious nod towards Psycho. As César plots against Clara we witness the depraved darkness in which he continuously wallows, as his madness spins maniacally out of control towards an unpredictable ending.
In Sleep Tight Jaume Balagueró showcases to fans just how effective a filmmaker he is. His first solo directorial piece since the [REC] films, Balagueró sticks to the basics of the genre, delivering up a dark vision that doesn’t break convention, but rather proves there’s much that can be done within the confines of one of the most tried and true formulas. In doing so he manages to bring to the forefront enough of his personal flair make this film truly his own creation.
Balagueró’s signature style is carried over from the [REC] films, as he keeps all of the action set within the confines of an old apartment building in Spain. The atmosphere practically emanates the spirit of Polanski’s Apartment Trilogy with nearly no shots taken outside of the building. In doing so, Balagueró keeps the sets minimal and tight, if not a tad bit claustrophobic; an effective detail that is not only practical from budgetary standpoints, but also ensures the audience remains centrally located in the midst of the action and firmly rooted in César’s point of view.
What I thought was truly masterful was how Balagueró manages to trick the audience into sympathizing with César. One of the most nail-biting scenes of suspense occurred when César managed to get himself trapped inside of Clara’s apartment. We watch as he frantically attempts to get out of the apartment without being caught, and it was in this moment of pure dread that I realized I wasn’t afraid for Clara. The suspense and anxiety I was experiencing was for César. I should have been jeering at the screen, hoping he’d get caught, glad he finally was about to get his comeuppance. But that wasn’t the case. And it was in that instance I knew I was watching something really powerful.
And it is the performance of Luis Tosar that gives this film its power. His sheer presence and posturing is enough to get audiences creeped out, even before he commits a single atrocious act. The monologue of his mind is clearly spoken out loud, creating a villain we equally despise and yet sympathize with. The dynamic he shares with Marta on screen is vital to the story and while Marta’s performance as Clara comes across as almost a support role to Tosar, it is not to be underestimated. There is a clear energy at play with their performances that sells this film.
One part Hitchcock, one part Polanski, Balagueró has crafted yet another unbelievably creepy film that deserves to be watched. If Sleep Tight doesn’t make you search every inch of your home to ensure you’re intruder free then I don’t know what movie will.
Sleep Tight is on limited US release now.