Review: Sleep Tight / Cert: 15 / Director: Jaume Balaguero / Screenplay: Alberto Marini / Starring: Luis Tosar, Marta Etura, Alberto San Juan / Release Date: March 1st
Sleep Tight sees director Jaume Balaguero return to his preferred Barcelona stamping ground (although you’d be hard-pressed to tell; most of the movie is set indoors) following his success with 2. But whereas the those pictures were unashamed all-out horror movies full of killer zombies and jump-in-your-seat scares, Sleep Tight is much more of a psychological experiment in terror, a film rooted in a world that may be all too real for many viewers and depicting a situation which may seem uncomfortably believable. Sleep Tight dials down the obvious crowd-pleasing horror stereotypes and allows Balaguero to craft an eerie, edgy thriller which is more interested in unnerving and unsettling its audience than in turning it into a gibbering wreck.
Cesar (Tosar) is a balding, early middle-aged man working as the concierge in a smart apartment building in Barcelona. He’s an efficient, unassuming chap and he’s largely unnoticed by most of the building’s residents. But he’s a loner, a man troubled and tormented by the stifling mundanity and lack of forward motion in his life. He’s polite and pleasant, he visits his ailing mother in hospital - but in Clara, a lively young girl in one of his apartments, he has a secret obsession. He bombards her with anonymous text messages declaring his love, he sends her letters - and at night, when she goes to sleep, he’s lying under her bed with a bottle of chloroform and a headful of unpleasant intentions. Cesar watches dispassionately as Clara starts to become ill as a result of his nocturnal activities and when he engineers a cockroach infestation of her apartment he seizes the chance to get deeper into her world than ever before. But when Clara brings home Marcus, her lover, Cesar’s obsession sends him over the edge and his fragile world slowly spins out of control.
Sleep Tight is a beautifully paced, atmospheric slow-burn of a movie and it’s not hard to spot the Hitchcock influences in the story of a plausible, yet dangerous man and his understated, but possibly fundamentally important, relationship with a mother who can’t communicate with him. Balageuro brilliantly ekes out the film’s growing sense of unease and even though we know that Cesar is a seriously troubled man we can’t help feeling some sympathy for him, almost to the point that we want him to evade discovery even as the net closes in around him: a little girl in the apartment opposite Clara’s knows exactly what he’s up to and yet uses her knowledge to bribe him, and the scene where Cesar is trapped in Clara’s apartment when she unexpectedly brings home her boyfriend is almost unbearably tense. Sleep Tight stumbles across the tightrope of implausibility in its last half-hour but fortunately never takes a fatal dive. Gripping and claustrophobic, it troubles its audience without resorting to too much shallow blood-letting and as a consequence it’s a damn sight more effective and memorable than most of the derivative cheapjack horror/thrillers which normally waste too much of our valuable time. Sleep Tight is haunting, original and likely to give those of a very nervous disposition a sleepless night or two.
Expected rating: 6 out of 10