Spanish director Jaume Balagueró made his name making the now infamous found footage frightener that is Rec and Rec 2. Taking a break from the undead brutality, Sleep Tight, which premiered at FrightFest 2012, is a whole other sort of horror but just as interesting and evocative.
The film’s anti-hero is Cesar, played brilliantly by Luis Tosar. He’s a janitor in an apartment building who spends his free time ruining the life of one for the tenants.
Suffering from depression he believes his only salvation is to make the life of beautiful and cheerful Clara (Marta Etura) a living nightmare, which he does by stalking her, sending horrible letters to her and infesting her house with cockroaches along with several other psychotic things.
As Cesar’s tortures escalate ever further it seems that there is no end to what he will do to destroy Clara’s life. but will he be found out before he succeeds?
A massive hit at FrightFest, this oddball thriller plays out like a cross between Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer in being told from the perspective of the psycho, and Hammer’s The Resident. In fact, some scenes seem so similar to The Resident that you could mistake it for a Spanish remake.
During the Q and A at FrightFest one audience member quizzed Balagueró, asking if he had seen The Resident, to which he replied ‘no’, making any likeness purely coincidental, if still slightly jarring.
Anyone, like Balagueró, unaware of The Resident and even those who are will find that Sleep Tight is a much better and more interesting and edgy film. It takes a high risk at the beginning by taking sides with the central psychotic character – a bet that pays off, largely due to Tosar’s captivating and somehow strangely likable performance.
There are those who will find Cesar disgusting and his actions deplorable, siding completely with Clara. They may view the whole film as being some sort of sick joke played on a poor unfortunate innocent. However, those audience members are missing the deep tragedy to be found in the main character.
Excellently filmed and confined (much like Cesar) predominantly to the four walls of the apartment building in which he works, he perversely plays as the film moves forward, making days with title cards creating an air of impending doom.
A curious creation, Sleep Tight, much like its malign main protagonist, is not perfect but it is a moving and masterful character piece. It tells a tragic tale of despair, detailing the decline of one man driven to cruelty and spite because of his own unhappiness.