This review was originally published in October of 2011 during our Fantastic Fest coverage. It has now been re-posted due to its limited release.
For me, [REC] is one of the scariest films of the past decade. In a nearly impossible feat to achieve, the directing duo of Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza were able to almost outdo their previous entry with [REC] 2. The two are continuing with the series with two more sequels that are currently being filmed. Though they can be seen as partners in crime, both have since gone on to produce their own entries of fear. There may not be any hand-held camera scares, but Balaguero’s Sleep Tight harkens back to the days of Hitchcock as opposed to the modern aspects of horror and helps to redefine Jaume Balaguero as one of the leaders in the horror genre.
Cesar, played perfectly by Luis Tosar, is a door-man at your neighborhood apartment complex. His quiet and polite demeanor is simply a facade to a much more darker and sinister personality. His current dark obsession is Clara. At night when Clara is fast asleep, Cesar sneaks into Clara’s room to lie with her and appease his fantasies. If only the pesky young girl a few doors down would mind her own business. Cesar’s life quickly spirals out of control when a police investigation threatens to ruin his plan to make Clara as miserable as his own tragic life.
Sleep Tight is without a doubt directly inspired by the works of Alfred Hitchcock. The attention to creating suspense and building tension is pushed to the forefront in this more character driven thriller. Throughout the film I couldn’t help but be in awe of actor Luis Tosar. His complex villain is one of the most memorable in recent memory. Every subtle glance or nuance of his performance add depth to this creepy but oddly sympathetic man. Marta Etura plays the beautiful Clara. Her performance is solid throughout, but the film belongs to Tosar (who is also to thank for co-writing the smart script). A memorable scene involving Ceasar having to sneak out of Clara’s apartment in the early morning light without being detected is one of the most nerve racking sequences of the year. Either for the sake of teasing the audience or as a result of simply running out of time, Balaguero hints at a bizarre relationship between Cesar and the little girl who lives in the building. I appreciated the self control the director has in not divulging too much of this, but it also feels like an unnecessary element when you already have a villain who you love to hate. This minor complaint aside, I applaud the film for weaving a thrilling and emotional story that unfolds in a way that will keep you guessing until the end; truly reminiscent of Hitchcock.
Sleep Tight is a taut thriller that gets under your skin long after the final punch to the gut. Only in Spain would they allow to end the film in such a morose way. When you really stop to think about the film and its risky ending, the whole affair and the character’s motives seem pretty sick. Yet, this dark diversion into the mind of a sick individual sets it apart from most of the films I have seen this year.