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You wake day after day to the comfort and security of your home. But how safe is it really?
For more about Sleep Tight and the Sleep Tight Blu-ray release, see Sleep Tight Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on January 7, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Marta Etura, Luis Tosar, Alberto San Juan, Petra Martínez
Director: Jaume Balagueró
» See full cast & crew
Sleep Tight Blu-ray Review
"The only thing that helps me is knowing that other people are unhappy too."
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, January 7, 2013
It's one thing to be depressed, but it's quite another to wish depression on others to compensate for your own unhappiness. You've probably met someone like this; a downer who lives to make others miserable. An emotional troll. The kind of person who sucks the life right out of the room. This unfortunate personality disorder is the premise behind Sleep Tight, a malicious little thriller from Spanish director Jaume Balagueró. You may know Balagueró from the found-footage, supernatural-infection chillers [REC] and [REC] 2—which he co-directed with Paco Plaza—and if so, you know he has an amped-up-Polanski-esque thing for unleashing terror inside apartment complexes. That predilection is still in full effect here, but Sleep Tight is a much more classical suspense film, trading POV shaky-cam for elegant lens movements, and demonic zombie possession for the misanthropic quirks of a deranged building supervisor. The horror is relatively mundane, but that's what makes it terrifying, especially for urban apartment dwellers—what if the guy with keys to your flat is sneaking into your bedroom at night, to watch you sleep or worse?
Galician actor Luis Tosar plays the maladaptive César, the concierge at a posh apartment building in Madrid. Balding, with bushy black eyebrows and a forehead that would do a Cro-Magnon proud, he has a face that's at once arrogant and unassuming—he can seem cruel one moment and graciously accommodating the next. We quickly learn that any kindness he shows is simply an act. As the film opens, he's standing on top of the building, on the ledge, about to jump. "I can't be happy, I've never been," he says in voiceover, "even when good things happen to me."
We then cut to a shot of César in bed with a sleeping woman, and the camera pans over to show a picture of her with a different man, presumably her boyfriend. César sneaks out of the bedroom, brushes his teeth—with her toothbrush—and skulks down to his own basement apartment to shower and get ready for the day. Sure, there's the dramatic possibility that he might be having an affair with this woman, but the scarier option—that she has no idea he's a midnight bed intruder—is of course our first assumption, knowing what we know about the film going in. And we're right. The next morning, the woman—Clara (Marta Etura)—bounds through the lobby, bids farewell to César, and cheerfully heads off to work, unaware that she had been chloroformed just hours before.
Psychologically, the film is exceedingly simple. César wants nothing more than to subversively make others suffer. He offers to feed one elderly resident's dog, but intentionally gives it the wrong food, so that it gets diarrhea. He pisses off a gardening enthusiast by not watering the rooftop plants. He gets the nighttime janitor and her teenage son in trouble with the management. But Clara is a special case. She's endlessly optimistic, always happy, even when things go wrong for her—and they will go very, very wrong in short order. César has made it his personal mission to break her spirit, and over the course of the film, his methods escalate in intensity to match Clara's resilience. Without giving away too much, I'll just say that roaches and chemical burns are just the start, and that the situation reaches its apex of horribleness when Clara's boyfriend returns from a business trip in San Francisco.
Most films in this genre would feature Clara as the beleaguered protagonist, and would operate in mystery mode, slowly unraveling who is stalking her and why. Not Sleep Tight. From the beginning, Balagueró latches the movie to César's hateful perspective, which is a strange and not entirely successful choice. We feel little-to-no empathy for César, not even as a semi-sympathetic anti-hero, as his actions and intentions are wholly ugly. This puts us constantly ill at ease, and while that may be the intended effect, it makes Sleep Tight difficult to enjoy, particularly because following the baddie diminishes the amount of suspense the film is able to deliver. We know too much about César, effectively, and not enough about Clara. She's only here to be terrorized—by us, the viewers, essentially, since we're in César's shoes. It's an interesting narrative switcheroo, but Balagueró doesn't quite pull it off.
That said, Sleep Tight does work as a kind of bizarre, genre-oriented character study—a la Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer—and this results in its own unique horrors. For one, the film forces you to identify with this loathsome bastard as he goes about his dirty work. Luis Tosar is perfect in the role—behind his disingenuous smile and feigned servility, there's an I'm better than all of you spite in his eyes that's scary and unpredictable. There's one scene near the end of the film where he completely dismantles the inner joy of the dog owner he's been "helping"—an old maid who treats her pups as surrogate grandchildren—by exploiting her fear of dying alone. It's chilling and disgusting and manipulative, and it might just be worth the price of admission. And although the film's final act may be too tidily plotted, it does play out with unnerving intensity. Stick around for the Grand Guignol bathtub bloodletting.
Sleep Tight Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sleep Tight cuddles up to Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that seems true to source and directorial intent. The movie was shot on 35mm and retains all of its natural filmic texture here, with a thin layer of grain—that spikes a bit in darker scenes—and no signs of digital noise reduction or edge enhancement. And as you'd hope from a contemporary film, the print is spotless too. Although there are a few soft spots, clarity is generally very strong, with good facial definition and visible fine texture in clothing. Black levels can get a bit oppressive in the nighttime bedroom sequences, but I imagine this is on purpose. Otherwise, contrast is spot-on and the color palette is rich and well-graded, varying between chilly basement interiors and sunny rooftop afternoons with creamy highlights. I didn't spot any egregious compression or encode issues—everything here looks as it ought to look.
Sleep Tight Blu-ray, Audio Quality
You can tell that particular attention was paid to Sleep Tight's sound design, which makes full use of the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track included here. There's quiet but substantial ambience from all channels just about wherever it's called for—the rattling and strain of an 80-year-old elevator, bedsprings creaking under the weight of...ahem...sexual congress, hospital clamor, creepy-crawly insect noises, and more. The score by Lucas Vidal darts and surges ominously, and the occasional rock songs Clara dances around to in her apartment blast with considerable dynamic force. Even better, the film knows when to use silence to its advantage—there are tense moments when nearly all sound cuts out to amplify the suspense. Dialogue is clean and understandable from start to finish, and the disc includes English, English SDH, Spanish, and Spanish SDH subtitles, which appear in easy-to-read yellow lettering. No issues here whatsoever.
Sleep Tight Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sleep Tight Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Sleep Tight puts us inside the mind of a total misanthrope who gets off on making others miserable. It's a hard premise to enjoy, but director Jaume Balagueró balances out the Spanish-language film with a good deal of coal-black comedy and a terrific—literally terrifying—performance from Luis Tosar. For a point of reference, the film reminded me quite a bit of the recent Hammer Horror movie The Resident, which is also about a well-to-do woman being stalked by a suspiciously accommodating property manager. Technical specs on the Blu-ray are solid, and the disc comes with a nearly two-hour making-of documentary. Worth a rental, at least.
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Sleep Tight Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Sleep Tight Blu-ray - November 6, 2012
Dark Sky Films will release on Blu-ray Spanish director Jaume Balaguero's horror thriller Mientras duermes a.k.a Sleep Tight (2011), starring Luis Tosar, Marta Etura, and Alberto San Juan. The release will be available for purchase online and in stores across the ...
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