Feb 1, 2019
New month, new review from Andrew Campbell, which is also his second for the week after his review for “Beautiful Boy” (Episode #395). It’s, of course, another Fantastic Fest feature from all the way back in 2011, and from one of my favorite film scenes, Spain. For a few other Spanish horror and thriller films, check out “Veronica” (Episode #080), “Errementari: The Blacksmith and The Devil” (Episode #290), “When Angels Sleep” (Episode #364), and Andrew’s review for “The Invisible Guest” (Episode #369). Plenty more on the way in February as well!
Got any favorites? Reach out to us over social media! I would do that right now, but this bedroom closet door hinge is pretty squeaky, and I don’t want to wake Andrew.
Take it away, Andrew!
Hello film fans!
Andrew here. This week we are headed to Spain for one creepy film starring one creepy dude. People who hate subtitles: hold on a second, I don’t want to lose you. The most memorable moments of this film take place during long periods without dialogue. I can even argue this film could be watched without reading the subtitles and you would have no trouble following along, whether or not you took high-school Spanish. But watch this one right before bed and you might not be able to... sleep tight.
Today’s movie is “Sleep Tight” (2011), the suspense thriller directed by Jaume Balaguéro and written for the screen by Alberto Marini. “Sleep Tight” follows César (Luis Tovar), the concierge at an upscale apartment building. César is outwardly affable but many of the tenants find him off-putting. Underneath the visage is a man whose sole source of happiness is the unhappiness of the people around him. Not exactly the mental state you want in a man that holds the keys to your apartment. César soon becomes obsessed with Clara (Marta Etura), one of the building’s residents. Clara is young, pretty, seemingly affluent, and has an overwhelmingly positive disposition even in the face of adversity. But that just won’t work in César’s world, will it.
“Sleep Tight” director Balaguéro broke out with 2007’s “[Rec]”, a tight little shaky cam horror film, also set in an apartment, that spawned several sequels, a couple of which he helmed, as well as the serviceable American remake “Quarantine”. Here, Balaguéro trades shadowy found footage horror for domestic dread by putting the villain in the lead role. There’s no monster ready to jump out of the shadows; he is in plain sight committing dastardly deeds like:
At no point is César a sympathetic figure; he is not a man of nuance. The film contains several scenes of palpable anxiety that will make your skill crawl. The terror is fully relatable to anyone who rents their home or has shared a key with someone, the tension building naturally toward an unguessable endgame.
The only real problems here are a couple of the side plots. When César is doing his creep thing, the film is riveting. Star Luis Tovar nails the look with his duplicitous facial expressions and thick black eyebrows that I daresay would give Peter Gallagher a run for his money. It’s during the scenes when César is berated by the building manager who senses he’s up to no good that the film loses some steam. A young girl of 12 or 13 is written as if she’s far older and is somehow able to get too far under his skin. Minor gripes, as the suspense carries the day.
Finding a film that directly compares to “Sleep Tight” is not easy, a compliment to the picture’s originality. Can one ever be truly comfortable with the people we let into our homes? Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Chip Douglas in “The Cable Guy” is a performance and a film that have grown on me immensely over the years. “The Cable Guy” takes a blackly comic look at the people we let into our homes. “Psycho” offers similar thrills but goes at it from a horror angle, groundbreaking for its time. “Paranormal Activity” brings terror to the home through the supernatural, whereas “Sleep Tight” takes the straightest path, invoking paranoia through its sheer realism.
“Sleep Tight” is a tight work of suspense with lasting effects and a film you might want to avoid if you live alone. Fans of psychological thrillers set in the home like “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” or “Single White Female” will be into this one.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
One Movie Punch: 8.0/10
“Sleep Tight” (2011) is not rated and is now streaming on Amazon Prime and Shudder.
Come back next week when I’ll be reviewing “Terrified” (2017), arguably the scariest film to come out of the 2018 Fantastic Fest. This Argentine film is a disturbing slow-burn that you’re going to want to hear about. If you think you can handle it.