Simplicity can sometimes be beautiful. Sometimes the allure of a story is not what it is all about, but rather just how it is told. Director Jaume Balguero, fresh from his successes with [REC] and [REC] 2, comes out with such a simple and yet absorbing thriller that is told through the bad guy’s point of view. Yes, it somewhat reminded me of Norman Bates in the classic “Psycho”.
Well, the concierge in an apartment building may be no Norman Bates, but he is no less creepy. Cesar (Luis Tosar) is such a miserable man who believes that he has no ability to feel happy. As a result, he somehow decides to make it his mission to make those around him unhappy. The majority of the tenants may be easy to agitate, but somehow, a woman named Clara (Marta Etura) has such a sunny disposition that she almost seems ‘serially pleasant’. Resorting to creepy extremes, Cesar does his very best to mentally breakdown. Things get even more complicated with Cesar’s routine when Clara’s boyfriend Marcos (Alberto San Juan) shows up for a visit.
What makes “Sleep Tight” quite compelling even with the simplicity of its core story is the way it is structured. It abandons the usual rational formula, that instead of watching the story from the point of view of the tormented, it is seen from the tormentor’s point of view. So you can say that the bad guy is the main protagonist; that is not without pattern. Like Norman Bates in “Psycho”, as he tries to cover up his dark deeds, the viewer can find himself rooting for him. I know it is twisted, but there is something in this kind of structure that creates sympathy for the bad guy. I know it isn’t right, but you kind of feel that you want Norman Bates in this case, Cesar to get away with it.
“Sleep Tight” is the kind of thriller that has no whodunit. The viewer is privy to what exactly is going on, and proves to be low-key. It just entices with each scene, that the more you see, the more you become engaged. It keeps things real close and yet so afar; it only has one scene of violence, and yet the way the story is unfolded is able to create a lot of tension. There is an almost playful wickedness in the proceedings, and frankly, it shows just enough to know that Cesar is a monster. It is to the director’s credit that the pacing and tone was perfect. The director knew just how to play with one’s senses and creates a balance in its entirety. It creates shocks without resorting to gore or blood or left-field surprises. It is disturbing and yet it never delves into the usual theatrics. One good thing that helped things along was the element that all these things could happen; right under your nose, in the safety of your own home.
The screenplay does not even try to give Cesar a redeeming element. He is a monster and yet, there is something about him that feels sympathetic. He is sociopath; cold, conniving and soulless, who manages to hide what he is under a facade of charisma. It is to the writer’s credit and of course, to Luis Tosar’s credit that Cesar became such a compelling character. It helps that he comes across in the first act as some kind of a prankster; sure, a cruel one at that, and but really, the first two acts seemed to project the image that his pranks may just be ‘pranks’ and not all that bad. The fact that his victims do not know that they have been victimized encourages interest, and Clara is such a loveable character who seemed to get back up every time Cesar tries one of his tricks. It was a nice touch to make Clara as endearing and likeable as Cesar is monstrous and creepy. It creates something that fit perfectly, and only one of them sees a battle of sorts. By the time you get to see just how sick and depraved Cesar really is, you are already fully invested in its script.
This is the kind of film that creates some confusion as to who the audience is supposed to root for. The finale is also just perfect and brilliant, that “Sleep Tight” becomes one of the more unique and successful thrillers I’ve seen in years. It is about the obsession of a sociopath and the invasion of another’s life in such a delicate and intimate manner. It is rewarding discovery that I hope that director Jaume Balguero will continue on this genre path with another strong success with his upcoming “[REC] 4” in 2014. Seems like Spanish films are showing strong qualities in the horror-thriller genre. HighlyRecommended! [4 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
Despite the prevalence of such technology as caller ID, surveillance video cameras, and the like, there are still plenty of ways to harass another person if that’s the intended goal. What remains a bit of a mystery, however, are the varying reasons one might ‘watch’ another person. For some, there’s a desire to know all that’s knowable about some curiosity that takes the shape of another human being; and for others the underlying … more