Sleep Tight (2011) “Mientras duermes”

“The only thing that helps me is that others are unhappy too. And, believe me, I give it my best shot. My very best.”

Spanish director Jaume Balagueró delivers another lesson in horror, but not of the same ilk as his 2007 hit Rec. Instead of the supernatural exploration found in his previous film, we are instead treated to the unnerving realism found in the limits of human desire.

Also set in an apartment building, Sleep Tight unravels the tale of a lonely concierge (played by Luis Tosar), whom was born without the capacity to be happy. The only way to prevent this unhappiness consuming him, is to instigate the unhappiness of others. But there is one in the building that will wear a smile no matter what he does to her, and this consumes him with frustration and desire, a mix which the viewer may find as uncomforatble as captivating. But there is more to this intriguing and well acted film, which is less an emotional rollercoaster, and more a ride on the tunnel of love with possibly the creepiest character you may ever meet.

As unassuming and quiet as César, its main character, the movie begins with a sense of mystery, as César wakes up next to a beautiful woman, whom he meets moments later by the front door with smiles saved only for casual acquaintances. The viewer then immediately knows something is wrong, and these type of twists and turns keep the film on the edge, leaving you always one step behind, despite the plot’s fairly unassuming events. The film’s central themes explore the lengths that ordinary people go to to hide their true feelings, and the mask that is worn when you step outside your private world. By keeping the movie within the confines of the apartment building,  Balagueró creates a world that César can attempt to control, although one or two try to stand in his way, Iris Almeida as Úrsula being one, whose attempts to bribe César lands her in hot water with the disturbed concierge.

As the film’s character based plot wraps its well scripted hands around the viewer’s neck, the same noose closes in on César, as he dodges and uses his false smiles and quick thinking to avoid detection. Both eerily realistic and uncomfortable, the viewer can never be sure whether what they are watching borders on the absurd. But the movie loses all pretension that is found in more Americanised horrors, and avoids the temptation of over-scoring itself in an attempt to add drama, and instead lets the looks and silence in-between them to create the tension. This ensures a well rounded but by no means flat film, that will leave you squirming in, and on of the edge of, your seat.

Shapstik Verdict: A methodically paced but nonetheless gripping movie that is so smoothly filmed and scripted that is leaves me thinking it is a shame undramatic ideas like this don’t become more popular. Luis Tosar and Marta Etura are both excellent in the main roles, and the supporting cast create enough variety in a fairly small space.  With plenty of tension and a suitably dark ending, Sleep Tight offers more than enough horror in the night without reaching to turn off the light switch. 9/10

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