Directed by Jaume Balaguero
Written by Alberto Marini
Cesar is not a happy man. As the concierge for an upscale apartment building, he's both a daily presence and anonymous figure in the resident's lives. He's a figure in the background that sorts their mail, performs random chores when asked and makes brief small talk that's forgotten and dismissed before the words even escape the air. He remains an innocuous enough presence that residents don't think twice about the implications of him having a spare key to all their apartments. The only two people who take any real notice of Cesar are a snotty little girl who makes a sport of mocking him and Cesar's cantankerous boss who looks for any opportunity to fire him. An emptiness and lack of connection to another living soul fills Cesar with numbing depression that he keeps hidden from everyone around him.
One resident that captures Cesar's attention is the beautiful Clara. She's a vibrant young woman filled with energy. She attacks each morning with a hop in her step, bouncing around her apartment to upbeat pop tunes while she gets ready for her day. While she is outwardly polite and pleasant to Cesar, it's clear that she doesn't give him much regard aside from him being the man who holds open the door and says hello to her each morning.
What Clara doesn't know is how deep Cesar's infatuation with her runs. I would hate to spoil any of the numerous surprises Balaguero has in store with Sleep Tight and I will leave out the specifics. Cesar has a long planned end game in mind with Clara where he wants to ruin the young woman through an escalating series of tribulations that wear her down to a nub. In a refreshing change of pace Cesar reveals his intentions to the audience in the opening minutes of the movie. Sleep Tight manages to craft an unnerving and tense viewing experience by slowly raising the stakes in Cesar's plan with each progression increasing in both complexity to pull off and in the harm they cause.
One half of the creative team behind the first two [REC] films, Balaguero helms a much different, yet no less terrifying film, this time around. He still keeps the mostly single location shoot with the apartment building, but uses it in a much different way. The unrelenting violence and terror and claustrophobic atmosphere where characters are literally kept in the dark throughout have been set aside. Large chunks of Sleep Tight take place in daytime with natural sunlight streaming through the windows which creates the illusion of safety within one's home. Balaguero plays with this illusion in order to plant the seed in the viewer's mind that one can never know everything that can hide in one's home behind every curtain, cabinet or under one's bed. It's a more subtle form of horror, yet I'd argue it takes its participants to much darker places.
Tremendous credit also goes to Luis Tosar for his portrayal of Cesar. He does the unimaginable by forcing audiences to root for him despite his awful actions. He's a fascinating figure to watch with an undeniable knack to think quick on his feet and extradite himself from incriminating situations by crafting quick, plausible lies. An extended sequence finds Cesar trapped in Clara's apartment, seconds away from detection, and it's as nail biting a sequence that you'll see this year, where despite what you know about the character you find yourself pulling for Cesar to come out unscathed. Another moment finds Cesar delivering a scathing assessment of an elderly spinster's life in a casual, almost kind manner where you see the woman shrink inside herself, reduced to a quivering mess on the spot. Tosar delivers a fantastic new villain to the horror annals.
With Sleep Tight Balaguero delivers a much quiet, more reflective work of terror. Other films have tried their hand at this material (Hammer's The Resident comes to mind) but those often come off as clunky and ham fisted. Sleep Tight delivers something much more self assured that doesn't feel the need to pander to the audience or apologize for the nasty, dark places it takes its characters.
Sleep Tight is available via On Demand services including iTunes and Amazon On Demand.