Color, 2011, 100m.
Directed by Jaume Balagueró
Starring Luis Tosar, Marta Etura, Alberto San Juan, Pep Tosar
Warner/Filmax (Blu-Ray & DVD) (Spain RB/R2 HD/PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9) / DTS-HD 5.1
Color, 2011, 100m.
Every day César (Mondays in the Sun's Tosar) gets out of bed in his apartment building and works as a porter where he's belittled, ignored, and generally dismissed by all of the residents. The woman whose bed he shares, Clara (Las 13 Rosas' Etura), seems to be a nice person who wants little to do with him during the day... and even more oddly, she has a boyfriend, Marcos (Airbag's San Juan). She's also being tormented by letters and phone calls from someone who seems to want to pull her life apart. As it turns out, César has more than a few screws loose... and he's uncomfortably handy with a bottle of chloroform.
A simple description might make this taut Spanish thriller sound like your average urban apartment potboiler in the vein of something like The Resident, but plenty of disturbing twists and turns lie in wait thanks to a sneaky (and darkly funny) script by Alberto Marini (Romasanta) and controlled, impressive direction by Spain's current reigning maestro of horror, Jaume Balagueró. Perhaps no other superior genre filmmaker in recent years has been more atrociously treated in America; his first feature, the eerie The Nameless, was shuffled off to video years later, while his Darkness was badly mangled by Miramax and the English-language Fragile sat on the shelf for years. You'd think his masterful [REC] would have been the one to finally break through after it sent horror fans through the roof and became a hit around the world, but nope, Sony buried it to make room for their own clumsy remake, Quarantine. By the time [REC] 2 came around, Magnolia gave it a good shot but couldn't quite overcome the fact that it was a sequel to film few US audiences had actually seen.
By this point Balagueró has become quite the expert at wringing terror out of a single apartment building setting, obviously honed to fine chilling perfection in both of his [REC] films as well as his harrowing "To Let" installment in the fine Spanish TV Films to Keep You Awake series. However, this one takes a very different approach as it settles into gradually escalating, Polanski-style tension rather than a succession of shocks and jarring camerawork like his last few efforts. The three leads get plenty of meaty material to work with, especially Tosar in a menacing but multi-dimensional performance that winds to an astonishingly uncomfortable and haunting climax. On a more visceral level, the film isn't a gorefest at all but does deliver one murder sequence -- and boy, does it make that one count.
Though it's been shown at various horror festivals around the world including Fantastic Fest and Sitges, Sleep Tight (original Spanish title: Mientras Duermes) should have a much higher profile than it's enjoyed so far. At least the Spanish Blu-Ray release (also on DVD) should satisfy anyone interested in tracking it down, as the transfer is superb throughout (not surprising given its vintage) and features optional, rather large English subtitles. The DTS mix for the Spanish audio (in original Castilian as well as Catalan) delivers the atmospheric chills where it counts thanks to the subtle but inventive sound design, and contrary to the packaging which reflects a shorter PAL running time of 97 minutes, the Blu-Ray runs correctly at 100 minutes. Extras aren't English friendly but should be easy enough to process anyway; you get a theatrical teaser and trailer, TV spot, 12 minutes of alternate and deleted scenes, three character-based promo clips, a cast and crew appearance at Sitges, a 12-minute making-of featurette, and "Los mundoes de César," a standard def documentary about the making of the film from script to screen with loads of interviews and footage from the set. Incredibly, this one runs 105 minutes -- longer than the main feature itself!