Crash Analysis: SLEEP TIGHT (Spain, 2011)

Smart and creepy, with an ending to make your skin crawl url

Depressed loner with keys to everyone’s apartment

Director Jaume Balaguero originally rocked the horror world with his found footage [REC] in 2007, and its lackluster follow-up, [REC]2 in 2009. Nevertheless, he’s back for real with an excellent horror/thriller that proves to be unsettling until the credits start to roll.

SLEEP TIGHT, based on Alberto Marini’s taut script, was originally slated to take place in Manhattan, but Balaguero convinced him to tweak the characters to suit the culture of Barcelona. The result is a look not so much into the lives of the haves and have-nots, but the element of happiness, and what one man, Cesar (Luis Tosar) will do to thwart the emotion if he can’t possess it for himself.

Cesar’s suicidal. Happiness has never been a part of his essence, though he really wants to find a reason to live. But if he can’t find how to live with a smile, he’ll do his damnedest to take someone’s away. That person is a high-end tenant in a Barcelona apartment. Clara (Marta Etura) has it all: great apartment, great job, and a great lover. Her smile never quits. She wakes up happy, goes to bed happy, and her good looks exude a slice of sunshine. And the apartment building’s concierge, Cesar, the go-to guy for plant watering, insect extermination, and dog feeding, is the pissed off deviant that wants to bring her down any way he can.

To say much more about SLEEP TIGHT would detract from Balaguero’s brilliant slight of hand. His masterful strokes of camera angles, and “Aha” moments are reminiscent of early Hitchcock. Trust me, he does not copy the famed director, but it’s clear he paid attention to the British helmsman’s penchant for storytelling, and how to reveal the goods in his own special way.

Tosar is phenomenal as the concierge with the fake half-smile that wants to undo the happy-go-lucky world around him. If you have a real smile, you’re a target, and he wipes that smile off people’s faces with wit, cruel insight, and a calm demeanor equivalent to a slow moving shark. By the time he comes for your emotional state, it’s already too late. Etura also shines as the bright side of the moon, her counterpart admires and despises at the same time. Thanks to her skilled interpretation of the character, we never feel like rich-girl is about to get her just desserts. She’s a woman who’s comfortable, but never uses her status as a weapon to degrade others, including lowly Cesar. Marini clearly created wonderful, indepth characters for this cat and mouse game of emotion.

Granted, SLEEP TIGHT sounds more like a dramatic thriller than a horror, but the subtlety of the horror burns steady and long. Think Roman Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968), or the power of Juan Antonio Bayona’s THE ORPHANAGE (2007).

Cinematographer, Pablo Rosso’s lighting and angles are stellar. We’ve seen his work from the [REC] series, and he only gets better like the finest of wines. To date, this is Rosso’s greatest cinematic achievement. Combined with Guillermo de la Cal’s seamless editing, and Lucas Vidal’s original score, we’re given a film that will continue to attract audiences for many years.

SLEEP TIGHT is a must see for those who love a strong narrative, as well as a vibrant character study. And the ending is enough to make one cringe, and buckle under the emotional tumult of it all. Audiences should thank Balaguero, Marini and company for offering a cinematic thriller that never lets them off the hook, or delivers a mundane ending. There’s no doubt you’ll take a deep breath after engaging this one.

Rent it now.

4 out of 5 stars

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