César (Luis Tosar) is the concierge in a Barcelona apartment building. Believing he was born without the ability to be happy, he quietly seeks to spread misery among the tenants of the building. However, the vivacious and relentlessly upbeat Clara (Marta Etura) resists all efforts on César’s part to make her unhappy, driving him to ever more extreme and inventive methods.
Sleep Tight is something of a change of pace for the film’s director, Jaume Baluguero, whose prior credits include The Nameless and [REC]. While it fits comfortably into the horror genre, it’s as much an inky-black comedy as it is a psychological thriller. There’s often a fine line between the comic and the horrific and Sleep Tight doesn’t so much walk it as play a gleeful game of hopscotch, bouncing from laughs to chills and back again. In scene César finds himself trapped in Clara’s apartment with her and her boyfriend, while desperately struggling to avoid detection; this verges on outright bedroom farce – except with the kicker that you know this guy is capable of pretty much anything.
In less adept hands the film could have become an uneven mishmash, neither one thing nor the other; that it succeeds is a tribute not only to Balaguero’s direction and Alberto Marini’s script, but to Tosar’s performance as César. Tosar is as skilled with comedy as with menace. One of the strengths of his performance is that the menace is very well-hidden – unless César doesn’t want it to be. Tosar actually manages to make César a character the audience oddly warms to. Despite his actions, the viewer ends up willing him to get away with it. Special mention should also go to Iris Almeida Molina, as the delightfully bratty Ursula, another tenant’s pre-teen daughter who glimpses some of César’s activities and blackmails him.
Viewed from one angle, Sleep Tight is a psychological thriller with humorous asides; viewed from the other, it’s the blackest kind of comedy. Either way, it’s a resounding success.
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