Evil lurking in plain sight is always one of the themes of Alfred Hitchcock thrillers. Spanish director Jaume Balaguero's "Sleep Tight" (Mientras duermes, 2011) takes that theme and transforms into a highly effective psychological thriller, where even the most hardened viewers will find its after-effects hard to brush off. This movie deftly plays one of the worst fears for any apartment dwellers.
The movie starts on Monday, with Caesar (Luis Tosar)-- an unhappy caretaker of upscale Barcelona apartment building. He wakes up next to Clara (Marta Etura) and then sets out the day's newspapers, sorting mail, opening the elevator door for tenants, and offers to feed Sra -- a dog of the rich tenant Veronica. Well, how could a apartment caretaker wake up next to Clara, when she already has a boyfriend named Marcos (Alberto San Juan)? The secret to that is 'Chloroform.' Caesar lurks every night patiently under Clara’s bed to chloroform her before infesting her cupboards with roaches, poisoning her body lotion and finally curling up next to her in bed.
Caesar is a miserable psychopath. The only he can find happiness is by finding imaginative ways to inflict fear, anxiety and pain on others. He has always been a voyeur and now his object of fascination is Clara. Her platonic friendliness to Caesar makes him to label as insincere enough to deserve a special punishment. The punishment which started from the infatuation of Clara soon turns into an obsession. Soon, Clara’s blitheness is successfully scampered and she’s headed for a breakdown. Marcos is frequently out of town and in one occasion, when he confronts Caesar in their apartment, Marcos begins to have some doubt. Caesar is only haunted by child, who spies on him, then later blackmails him into bringing her adult porno films. What happens in the end to Clara will definitely be spine-tingling experience.
Luis Tosar most often plays the off-beat or off-color characters ("Cell 211", "Even the Rain"). As Caesar he subtly as well as boldly articulates the movie's suspense. The sweating brows, panicked eyes, clever explanations and sly movements are all incredibly convincing and at times, we even end up rooting for him not to get caught. As Clara, Marta Etura is equally good and has a strong presence like the monstrous protagonist. The only idea I felt trite is blame-the-mom psychoanalysis. Like a Norman Bates kind of psycho, Caesar sits close to his paralyzed mother and utters “We’ll wipe that smile off her face.”
Balaguero's direction is at a steady tempo, on key and in tune with Tosar's performance. He matches the shock-inducing Alberto Marini’s goosebumps screenplay (adapted from his own novel) with a pernicious tense atmosphere. Balaguero was the co-director of REC but makes a sounder psychological horror movie with "Sleep Tight" than those nocturnal webcam horror franchise. In short, his direction can be called as the well-executed bit of escalating craziness.
"Sleep Tight" moves with a slow-burning intensity and is infused with uneasy, hard to digest twists. This Spanish chiller is worth seeking out for its acting and for its twisted humor.
Sleep Tight - IMDb