Posted February 26, 2013 by Ben Winkley in Films

Sleep Tight

How well do you know the people that cross your path each day? Probably not too well if Sleep Tight, a taut, psychological thriller from Spain, is anything to go by.

It’s not about knowing your friends.  Or even your colleagues. It’s about the people with whom you regularly interact but barely acknowledge. The guy who hands you a newspaper at the station.  The woman who makes your daily coffee.  The security guards at the door of your office block.

Do you assume that they live happy, fulfilling lives? That they are of sound mind? Or that they hate the sight of you and would take their only happiness from destroying your life.

That last person, Cesar, is the malignant heart of Sleep Tight. The residents of the apartment block where he mans the door come and go, barely affording him a second glance. Most of them don’t even know his name.

Quietly he loathes them all but reserves particular enmity for Clara, a gamine, vivacious young woman of the type only ever found in big European cities.

She’s always smiling, always confident and breezy, always busy. A grouch may sympathise with Cesar’s attitude toward her. Few could agree with the means he uses to destroy her.

His preferred tools – keeping a low profile, observation, bare-faced lies, chloroform and access to all the door keys.

Cesar is a genuine headcase. The things he does to Clara and others, notably the building cleaner and her son and the dotty spinster with her pocket pooches, he does with no regret and not a thought of guilt. A madman thinks he’s right even when he’s wrong.  And Cesar is very, very wrong.

Underneath, Cesar is a ball of rage. He has a relationship with his mother that nods to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, no friends and a hatred of absolutely everyone and anyone. His only joy is gained from making others miserable. The misanthrope’s misanthrope, he is happiest sowing his vicious seeds of destruction and then sitting back to silently watch the chaos that ensues.

A welcome change of pace for director Jaume Balaguero, best known for helming handycam horror [REC] and writing its sequel, the imaginatively-titled [REC]2, Sleep Tight is firmly in psychological-thriller territory – the chills are literally of the what’s-under-the-bed variety and there is no gore bar one blood-soaked death. The known proves itself to be much scarier than the unknown; the seen much more threatening than the unseen.

Tosar was a bullheaded brute in 2011’s prison-riot movie Cell 211. In Sleep Tight he’s more nuanced, bringing a quiet rage and repressed frustration to the not-so-mild-mannered janitor.

Tosar carries it all off with some panache. It’s surely only a matter of time before Hollywood comes calling to see if he can match the success of his compatriot, Javier Bardem.

He’s up to the task. It’s Tosar time.

Ben Winkley