by Brody Rossiter
From Jaume Balaguero, the director behind zombie outbreak shocker, [REC], Sleep Tight is a Spanish psychological horror that explores one man’s obsession and how it materialises in a most unsettling manner.
Cesar is an apartment block concierge who believes he was born without the ability to feel happiness. By day he greets residents, hands out newspapers and delivers post. By night he sneaks into the apartment of a young female neighbour named Clara, hides beneath her bed and drugs her so that he can lie beside her naked body throughout the night.
Despite Cesar’s attention to detail when carrying out his precise nocturnal routine, two other individuals are aware of his unneighbourly actions: his bed-ridden mother and an inquisitive young girl who lives across the hall from Clara. He bribes the girl with euros and makes daily confessions to his increasingly distressed mother, yet despite these clear shortcomings in his unhinged plan to somehow win Clara’s heart, Cesar continues to tempt fate and creep around the apple of his eye’s bedroom.
Balaguero impressively shifts away from the typical dynamic of focusing upon the peril facing a helplessly unaware victim (in this case Clara), electing to place the viewer in the skin of Cesar as he repeatedly attempts to avoid detection. You should obviously want him to get caught red-handed, and for Clara’s worsening toils to stop – Cesar repeatedly plays cruel tricks upon her throughout the night – though you’re also aware that if that were to happen, this disquieting yet engrossing thriller would have to come to an abrupt end. It is a perverse technique that perhaps appeals to not just the average cinephile, but the shameful voyeur who skulks around in the psyche of us all.
After Balaguero’s great success with the rampaging though incredibly claustrophobic [REC], it’s a bold decision on the part of the director to return to such a similar environment albeit with a far more subdued and psychological narrative. Nevertheless, as he proved with Fragile – another 31 Days of Fear recommendation – dark, enclosed spaces are a breeding ground for the veteran horror filmmaker and his most creatively troubling ideas.
Growing increasingly fraught and disturbing with every passing night inside the attractive apartment complex, Sleep Tight doesn’t fully reveal the true depth of its highly distressing nature until its final third. Satisfyingly paced and inventively scripted, this is one restless night that will have you gripped until the very end.