Even though the psychological thriller genre may be one of the most narratively complex, such films usually stem from a simple moral tale. It separates the Hannibal Lecters from the Michael Myers, and ostensibly turns a terrifying movie into a haunting one. These are comforting, spectacular stories, but that’s neither how life works or [Rec] director Jaume Balagueró’s latest film Sleep Tight. Goodness may prevail, but certainly not in this nightmare.
César (Luis Tosar) is a seemingly conscientious concierge working in an upscale apartment building in Barcelona. But beneath his charming smile and do-gooding demeanour lies a calculative psychopath who is determined to ruin the lives of his unassuming tenants.
He fixates on Miss Clara (Marta Etura), the beautiful and friendly occupant of Apartment 3B. Clara is berated with threatening letters and sexual text messages from an anonymous stalker, but she never once questions the overly attentive man porter lurking in the lobby. Instead of watching from afar, César is quite literally a monster under the bed – waiting for Clara to fall into a deep sleep so that he crawl out from underneath and chloroform her. In her comatose, absent-minded state, César comes alive – spooning her in the bed and using her toothbrush until dawn arrives and he has to head downstairs to start another day as everybody’s favourite doorman.
Alberto Marini’s screenplay is light on dialogue exchange, instead we eavesdrop in on muffled conversations straight from our despicable anti-hero’s isolated perspective. César’s lack of contact with the world is extended during his daily visits to the hospital to see his similarly dormant mother, hopelessly crying as her only son recounts all of his sickening manifestations from the night before.
Light on gore, narrative punch or secondary character development, Balagueró heightens the horror elements vicariously, by injecting some well-appreciated black humour to the proceedings. Balagueró also never gives his an audience an easy ride and fall back on the moral tropes mentioned previously. With almost no back-story development or motivation for his sadistic pastimes, César represents an opaque, but all the more naturalistic portrait of humanity’s dark side.
Cinematographer Pablo Rosso ([REC]³ Génesis), employs suffocatingly close framing to further reinforce the sensation of impending doom and lack of escape for Clara. Sharp-and-dark colours are matched with an appropriately sinister score from Lucas Vidal. However, it is the worryingly compelling performance from Tosar as the–dare I say it–piteous César who ensures that Sleep Tight achieves resonating chills of Hitchcockian proportions. Sleep Tight? I’ll certainly try.