Director Jaume Balagueró flies solo with Sleep Tight, a film that – like his most famous effort – once again takes place in a apartment building, however this time his film has more in common with the classic cinema of Alfred Hitchcock and Roman Polanski than the modern zombie horror of Balagueró’s [REC].
Sleep Tight follows Cesar (Tosar), the quiet, helpful and polite concierge of an apartment block in Barcelona. However his polite exterior hides something much more… sinister. Relishing in tormenting Veronica, an old lady who lives all alone in her apartment surrounded by her pets and at odds with one of the buildings younger tenants, Cesar spends most of his days plotting against Clara, a happy-go-lucky young woman with whom he has an unhealthy obsession. An obsession that, as the film progresses, gets crueler and deadlier.
It’s clear to see why many have already dubbed this the Spanish equivalent of a Hitchcock flick. Sleep Tight feels very much like the maestro of horror’s Psycho, with Spanish superstar Luis Tosar seemingly channeling Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates. The film also has shades of Polanski’s early work, in particular Repulsion and, of course, The Tenant. It’s a credit to director Jaume Balagueró that whilst it is set in yet another apartment block, Sleep Tight looks and feels light years away from [REC], yet imbues the same creepy atmosphere.
Like the aforementioned classics of the genre, Sleep Tight succeeds thanks to the performance of its central actor, in this case leading man Luis Tosar. A Spanish acting superstar, Tosar is best know outside of his home country for Miami Vice, the Michael Mann helmed remake of the 80s TV show. Here he gives nothing away in his role as Cesar, playing his emotions and his motivations close to his chest until the films story, and Cesar’s plans for Clara, spiral out of control. At first Balagueró would have us think that Cesar is taking out his frustrations at being lonely on the tenants in his building, but it isn’t until the films stunning, and I do mean stunning, conclusion, that Cesar’s motivations become clear… The pursuit of happiness.
Whilst many a thriller such as this would have a forgone conclusion (after all any movie psycho should get his comeuppance right?), Sleep Tight breaks with convention with a conclusion that offers an explanation for everything that has come before and brought a wry smile to my face. And whilst genre films typically have you rooting for the put-upon heroine, Balagueró reverses genre conventions leaving you happy that Cesar accomplishes his goal. It’s an odd feeling rooting for the films psycho come the films denouement but at the same time a refreshing one – both Balagueró and Tosar must be commended for such an achievement.
A complex, gripping, and in the end unpredictable, thriller that manages, in a genre almost defined by cliche, to shock and surprise, Sleep Tight is yet another sure-fire hit from Jaume Balagueró, proving that Hitchcock’s spirit is still alive and kicking in European cinema.
This Was a review by Phil at Blogomatic3000