Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sleep Tight: The Concierge is Watching

It is not a case of class warfare, per se.  A sociopathic doorman is determined to make his upscale residents miserable simply because he resents their capacity for happiness.  It is only fair that he spreads the misery around a little, isn’t it?  He will go to truly disturbing lengths to torment one pretty young tenant in Jaume Balagueró’s Sleep Tight (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

In retrospect, giving a surly loner like César Manso access to the keys was probably a mistake.  Morbidly obsessed with the cheerful Clara Blás, one of the few tenants who is always friendly and polite to him, Manso knows every inch of her flat.  Not content with a mere look-see, he has tampered with items, undermining her health and emotional well-being. 

Oh, but it gets even more sinister.  Each night he waits under her bed for his victim to drift off.  Then he goes to work with his bottle of chloroform.  However, the nasty little girl living across the hall has seen him sneaking out of Blás’s apartment at suspicious hours of the morning.  The police are also actively investigating the poisoned-pen letters Manso has been anonymously sending his victim, but the concierge has his own plans for a really twisted endgame.

A major hit in Spain, Sleep Tight plays on viewers’ deep fears and nagging paranoia.  Manso really is a secret nemesis out to destroy his victims out of pure spite.  The fact that he is incapable of taking pleasure from his actions, makes it even more unsettling.  In a way, he is the Dostoyevskian Underground man, in his darkest, most brutish manifestation.  Be that as it may, his role in Sleep is to creep about, acting the malevolent heavy in Balagueró’s psychological thriller.  Best known internationally as the co-director of the first two [REC] zombie films, Balagueró eschews the found footage conceit for a moodier suggestive approach in the Polanski-De Palma tradition.

Luis Tosar is scary intense as Manso.  You can see the gears turning in his head and it is a fearsome sight indeed.  Iris Almeida also has moments that nearly equal him as Manso’s young blackmailer, Ursula.  In the victim role, Marta Etura falls apart quite sympathetically and convincingly, even though her character really ought to be picking up on the scheming concierge’s bad vibes.

Pablo Rosso stylishly noir cinematography makes the apartment building look truly menacing.  Balagueró maintains the ominous vibe, keeping the audience off-balance and on-edge, even though just about everyone should be much quicker on the uptake.  Though Sleep Tight falls more towards the thriller end of the genre spectrum than outright horror, it is decidedly dark, but ruthlessly effective.  Recommended for fans of Spanish horror movies nonetheless, as well as those who appreciate a thriller undaunted by lurid subject matter, Sleep Tight opens this Friday (10/26) in New York at the Cinema Village.