The film is so good at being crafty and diabolical for the majority of its runtime, only to lose the plot in the final 10 minutes.
When you’re a kid and your mother and father tuck you in for bed, you sometimes think there are monsters under your bed. This happened to me on many occasions, mainly because I have a wildly active imagination. Of course there never were and I would spend the night sweating under the sheets for no reason. I remember one such instance when my family went to a production of The Phantom of the Opera. When we got home I spent the night under my blankets peering at my closet CONVINCED The Phantom was sitting in there waiting for me to leave my bed so he could snatch me. I woke up the next morning soaked head to toe in sweat.
The new Spanish thriller Sleep Tight presents the idea of a monster under the bed but this one is all too real. Director Jaume Balagueró opens the film with some very crafty scenes that are actually more deceptive than they first let on. A man, Cesar (Luis Tosar) wakes up in the early morning to his alarm. Next to him is a gorgeous young woman. He goes about his normal routine before going to work. He takes the elevator to the ground floor of his apartment and sits behind the counter. He’s actually the caretaker/concierge of the apartment he lives in.
Within an hour or two, various people who inhabit the apartment leave for the day and give Cesar things to do or look at that when they find something wrong with their apartments. Cesar has keys to everyone’s apartment. Clara (Marta Etura), the young woman he sleeps next to at night walks by him and they share a sweet goodbye and she goes to work for the day. What happens next is a twist you will not want to know about. If do not want to know what happens, stop reading. If you don’t care, be my guest to read the rest of the review.
Clara comes home one evening to an empty apartment. She throws on the lights, cranks up her stereo and begins to dance around her apartment like no one is watching. She runs to the bedroom and jumps onto her bed. The next shot is Cesar under her bed, waiting. Now that Clara is fast asleep, Cesar makes his move. He drugs her so she goes into a deeper sleep. Now he can do whatever he wants with her.
So now we are aware that Cesar is a man who has clear illusions of grandeur in his relationship with Clara and he intends to act on them and seeks to make them a couple. Cesar really is the caretaker of the apartment building. But he doesn’t live with Clara. He has his own little hole down by the boiler room. Unbeknownst to Cesar is Clara’s boyfriend. This is where the real struggle of the characters comes into play. One night Clara comes home and Cesar is genuinely pleased. But much to Cesar’s surprise the boyfriend walks in. They make love on the bed while he lies underneath.
The scenes that follow I will certainly not ruin as they are quite fun and some of them are just down right sensational. One of them involves Cesar trapped in Clara’s apartment when she and her boyfriend are awake and walking around. The scene had the same playfulness of some of Hitchcock’s classic thrillers. Balaguero handles these scenes with master craft. He’s very good at building a natural tension throughout the film that doesn’t feel cheap. He lets the character’s feelings dictate where the plot goes instead of letting the film decide.
What makes me so iffy on Sleep Tight is that ultimately the film doesn’t go anywhere. The film is so good at being crafty and diabolical for the majority of its runtime, only to lose the plot in the final 10 minutes. There is a scene towards the end that really would’ve put the film over if it had gone one way and in the end it went the other. It’s really too bad because for 90 minutes Sleep Tight is fantastic.