César (Luis Tosar) is a deeply unhappy man who believes to his core his temperament will never change. The concierge in an upscale Madrid apartment building, he makes it his goal in life to make others just as unhappy as he is, doing it with a coy smile and a sinisterly sunny façade that will not betray his true goals.
His main focus in Clara (Marta Etura), a single woman living in one of the more posh units in the building who, no matter what obstacle or disappointment comes her way, always manages to stay in good spirits and present a courteous and openly welcoming demeanor to all who come in contact with her. César is going to change this, going to lengths to make her as unhappy as he that push the boundaries of taste and go into directions as horrifying as they are despicable.
I wasn’t prepared for Sleep Tight (Mientras Duermes). I was only interested in it because the director, Jaume Balagueró, was one of the key minds behind [REC] and [REC]2, two handheld found-footage horror movies that I found, especially in the case of the superb first one, extremely easy to watch and supremely entertaining. He showed talent and I was curious what he could do in regards to a change of pace, eschewing the world of found-footage for a more straightforward sounding thriller that would present things in a more conventional narrative fashion.
First things first, Balagueró is the real deal as far as directors go. He shows a confidence and restraint behind the camera that, isn’t just laudable, but is worthy of celebration, building suspense with Polanski-like precision that caught me totally off guard and kept me watching for every single one of the film’s briskly paced 102 minutes. No moment felt out of place, no sequence not in service to the story being told, everything building to a shocking, stunningly terrifying conclusion that had me clutching my throat in unrestrained revulsion (a good thing).
Alberto Marini’s assured and magnificently self-contained screenplay is a model of tightly wound efficiency. We learn about César and his plans has we should, slowly, bit by bit, moment by moment, his character coming more and more into focus as things progress more and more out of Clara’s control. Tosar plays him with an unflinching exactitude that is supremely unsettling, and the first time he came out from underneath his hiding place to lie next to his unconscious prey I almost couldn’t believe what it was I was being forced to view.
In a way, that last statement might be considered a problem by some. There is an inherent nastiness to all of this that is, understandably, kind of unavoidable. Some will not want to spend a little over an hour and a half with a creature as abhorrent as César, they won’t want to watch him little by little and bit by bit unravel and destroy Clara’s world. It’s devastating and disgusting stuff, certainly, and as such for these viewers staying with the film all the way until the end will undoubtedly be something of a chore.
Not for me. Like Polanski’s Repulsion, like his The Tenant, Sleep Tight shows a willingness to shock and to disgust that goes beyond the norm, but does so in a character-driven fashion that makes it all emotionally explosive. We end up getting to know César and Clara far too well to dismiss what is happening or turn our eyes away from the screen, making the climactic beats all the more terrifying in large part because of this. This is a seriously great movie, and without questions one of the sadly undiscovered gems of 2012.
Sleep Tight is presented on a single-layer 25GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 2.35:1/1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack and features optional English, Spanish SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Extras here include:
· Sleep Tight: Cesar's World (1:47:40)
· Deleted Scenes (12:35)
· Original Theatrical Trailer (2:17)
The big item here is obviously the feature-length making-of documentary chronicling just about every aspect of the film’s production. It’s very, very good, seriously fascinating stuff, and cineastes and young filmmakers looking to learn some tricks of the trade owe it to themselves to give it a look.
Sleep Tight is not for the faint of heart or the easily offended. Balagueró uncompromising and deeply unsettling thriller wades into some fairly horrific territory but does so with passion, precision and confidence. It is a strong motion picture that genre fans will be more than pleased with, this Blu-ray presentation bordering on sensational and as such is incredibly easy to recommend.