Sleep Tight Review

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Apartment janitor César (Tosar) is not a happy bunny. So unhappy, in fact, that he targets the block’s chirpiest tenant (Etura) and launches a sustained, obsessive, illogical hate campaign. At first he seems to be toying with her — then events start to escalate...


At last year's Frightfest, the co-directors of [REC] showcased their solo work, and while Paco Plaza unveiled the series’ third outing, Jaume Balagueró was eager to prove he’s more than a charging zombie and a camcorder, with this subtle, stealthy psychological chiller. The technique is old-school, simmering with Hitchcockian suspense, but even the most hardened horror-heads will find its after-effects hard to brush off.

The two-faced title’s just perfect — it doubles up as a threat. To his tenants, César the concierge (Luis Tosar) wears a front of smiling obedience. Left alone and the mouth straightens. Unable to experience happiness since birth, César has grown into a mood sadist, passing on misery like an Adam Sandler movie. And in Clara (Marta Etura), the building’s perkiest presence, César sees a challenge. “We’ll wipe that smile off her face,” he tells his paralysed mother, in an early hint at the Norman Bates within. Slowly, with unnerving precision, César sets about sabotaging her flat — rotten fruit in the fridge, allergens in the make-up, bugs in the wardrobe... The unsuspecting Clara breaks soon enough, but César’s only getting started, setting up camp under her bed.

César’s first introduced standing on a ledge. The film maintains the same precarious tension as we side, not with the victim, but the victimiser, and his unbalanced attempts at turning persecution into an art form. By the time César’s trapped in Clara’s flat, Balagueró’s subtly plugged into our worst voyeuristic instincts: you’re desperate for him not to get caught. Sleep Tight is, at its dark heart, a character study preaching sympathy for the devil, but the trust comes at a cost. When César finally unveils his master plan, you discover that your loyalties have been royally warped.

Balagueró directs at a steady tempo, on key and in tune with his lead’s contained performance. With his boom-mike eyebrows, sunken eyes and Beluga-whale forehead, Luis Tosar has the look of an Iberian Boris Karloff, and the film feeds off his wounded presence. A taut, twisted thriller, if it’s not a word-of-mouth hit, Sleep Tight at least deserves a whisper.

A creepy, neo-Hitchcock stalker drama, infused with uneasy twists and a slow-burning intensity. Check it out. Then check under your bed...