Focusing on seemingly mild-mannered concierge César, Jaume Balagueró’s Sleep Tight is an exceptional psycho-thriller that keeps its cards very close to its chest.
While César goes about his daily routine, doing odd jobs around the apartment building, most of the residents look right through him. However, César has secrets no one would even imagine: he is an adept predator that hides under a meek appearance.
César’s strange belief that he was born without the ability to be happy pushes him to start making a conscious effort to turn life hell for those around him. However, his methods are more deviant and despicable than any of the residents can imagine – and as Marta Etura’s Clara proves almost impossible to crack, César resorts to increasingly extreme measures.
Taking a break from the Rec franchise, Balagueró returns to his earlier style of filmmaking: tense and deftly handled camerawork coupled with a meticulous and disturbing story, which is revealed ever so slowly. Just like he did with Darkness Balagueró uses shadow and light to great effect – considering the setting, this is an approach that pays off handsomely. It’s a further joy that the film’s high production values accentuate the terror of César’s actions: modernity and comfort clash with his disturbing intentions in a series of tableaux that push the audience out of their comfort zone time and time again.
Spanish superstar Luis Tosar is incredible as César, pulling off a performance that can easily rival the best within the genre. With his nondescript appearance and almost shy mannerism he is one of the most dangerous men ever to be portrayed on screen, proving that one does not need loud noises to scare the audience.
Screenwriter Alberto Marini knows exactly how to toy with audiences’ expectations and turns the screws multiple times through the compact running time – even seasoned viewers will find themselves disturbed by where the film’s plot line is going to. His real achievement, however, lies in getting the audience to identify with a character like César: in one exquisitely plotted, breathtaking set-piece it’s hard not to wish for the psychotic handyman to get away with his actions.
All in all, Sleep Tight is one of the most disturbing and brilliantly made genre films to come out of Spain within the last few years, which, considering Spain’s prolific output, is a genuine achievement.