Sleep Tight aka Mientras Duermes 2011
SLEEP TIGHT AKA MIENTRAS DUERMAS: CREEPY… JUST PLAIN CREEPY
Juame Balaguero recently maybe more well known for his collaboration with Paco Plaza and their [REC] series. [REC] (2007) is a fantastic zombie outbreak film and what makes it more amazing is that it was filmed using the Found Footage format which can be a bit tricky to get people to buy into. Given the limitations of the Found Footage format Balaguero and Plaza managed to actually make the tricky format work in their favor, delivering a tense and bloody zombie experience. Balaguero and Plaza’s [REC] was so well received that it has spawned two sequels [REC] 2 (2009) and [REC] 3 (2012) and we are now eagerly waiting [REC] 4.
Although the [REC] films are great, Juame Balaguero’s career did not begin with Paco Plaza and those films. I first came across his work with The Nameless aka Los Sin Nombre (1999). The Nameless was a Spanish production and is in Spanish. A few years later Balaguero released an English language film, Darkness (2002), starring Anna Paquin and other English actors although the film was filmed in Spain. What made these two films standout was the ability of Balaguero to squeeze every once of tension and atmosphere from his scenes. Furthermore he he has a visual style similar to David Fincher (or at least a bit Fincher-esque) with lots of interesting camera movement and a color palette that features heavy contrast. It doesn’t hurt that like Fincher, Balaguero likes to work with dark material. Balaguero can wring tension out of even the smallest moments. IMO this is Balagureo’s “thing”. This is why you want to keep your eye on what ever he does. This is why we should be looking forward to [REC] 4 that should be written and directed by Balaguero. This is what makes Sleep Tight aka Mientras Durermes (While You Sleep (Spanish)) a must see for Horror fans and film fans alike.
Sleep Tight opens as Cesar (Luis Tosar), an apartment building’s concierge, wakes up and greets the day ready to get behind his concierge desk and deal with the apartment building’s residents. In a narration as he gets ready to begin work he describes how unhappy he is and how difficult it is for him to get out of bed and face another day. He guards his true feelings, his contempt for everyone he comes in contact with, and does his job as best he can greeting all the residents with a smile and courteous small talk. Cesar is especially preoccupied with a particular female resident, Clara (Marta Etura). Clara is a bubbly and attractive young lady that never seems short of smiles and hellos.
At first Cesar seems like a normal lonely guy that is just doing his best to get by. He is hard working and does his job well although his boss is always on his back about this or that. He treats the residents well and even seems to go above and beyond the duties of his job doing favors for the residents from time to time. After a visit to his hospitalized and bed ridden mother we begin to see a darker side behind the facade that Cesar puts out to the rest of the world. After this visit we begin to see a darker side of Cesar and possibly his even darker intent.
The star and creep de jour of Sleep Tight is Cesar, the concierge. He is diabolically portrayed by Luis Tosar. Cesar is devoid of human empathy and sympathy. Layer by layer is peeled away as his courteous and friendly facade is peeled away revealing something much more sinister and calculating. You feel like you are watching the development of something truly evil. The making of a predator.
Balaguero is careful not to give to much away to soon. He slowly allows the viewer to come to the proper conclusion as to what exactly is going on in his or her own time. Make no mistake regardless of when you pick up on things, everyone will come to the same understanding of this be sure. Diabolical narrative development slowly peels away the pretense as we discover the true nature of Cesar. This makes the strongest aspect of the film along with the Cesar character and Luis Tosar’s matter of fact performance. Chilling.
Luis Tosar is the focus of the film but Marta Etura’s Clara is perfectly naive and clueless. The best interactions come from very small moments between the adult Cesar and the mischievous cherub Ursula (Iris Almeida). These interactions are funny and interesting but in a very inappropriate and chilling way. They are small moments of sheer genius. The looks that Ursula gives Cesar as she catches him in appropriate situations are priceless and foreboding because she does not know the fire she is playing with.
Sleep Tight is terrifying in mostly an intellectual way as most of the terror comes from viewer being shocked by what he is witnessing. The film does not shock you with graphic violence but more with the audacity of the Cesar character. Later in the film we do get some literal moments of terror but the film is mostly setting up layer upon layer of wierdness that is just unsettling right up until the final frame. In this respect the film felt a bit like The Wicker Man (1973) as things get stranger and stranger until the final bleak frame. I even got a Pedro Almodovar’s Talk to Her aka Habla con Ella (2002), also a Spanish film, vibe.
Sleep Tight is a serious creep fest. Juame Balaguero creates a terrifying and emotionally empty character in Cesar that will slowly get under your skin. It will definitely force you to question the trust of the people that casually revolve around your daily life. What intent hides behind the casual “hellos” and “how do you do’s” of the people we come in contact with in our daily routines? Be afraid, be very afraid.