Sleep Tight [Mientras Duermes] Movie Review
Even though the central character is somewhat undefined, this film is a thorough creep-out, playing on our vulnerabilities while making the villain the most sympathetic person on-screen. Balaguero is one of the directors behind the [Rec] series, and knows how to unsettle his audience with atmospheric, skin-crawling sequences that are made especially visceral due to the realistic acting.
An impressive presence in the prison thriller Cell 211, the Bolivian political drama Even the Rain and as a drug kingpin in the Miami Vice movie, Spanish actor Tosar stars as Cesar, the likeable doorman at a creaky Madrid apartment block. But he secretly despises the residents, and is quietly destroying their lives, tormenting an elderly woman (Martinez) and her two beloved dogs, brutally threatening a young girl (Almeida Molina), and casting suspicion on mother-and-son cleaners (Fernandez and Morilla). But his biggest plan is for Clara (Etura), the sexy young woman in flat 5B. And while her boyfriend (San Juan) is away on business, he lurks in the shadows of her apartment plotting something unspeakable.
Director Balaguero keeps the film on low boil, refusing to explain everything in the plot while quietly twisting the moody tone. Every scene is a bundle of insinuation that suggests something truly nasty, and it's refreshing that Tosar never tries to make us understand what Cesar is up to: we see why everyone likes him, and also why they should be terrified of him. We only ever get a vague idea of his overall plan, but the things he does along the way are sinister enough to keep us nervous. As are hints that he may have done this before.
The script also cleverly refuses to present anyone as an innocent victim. Clara is sharply portrayed by Etura as an attractive woman who is used to getting whatever she wants from the men in her life, so when what is happening begins to dawn on her, the ugly realisation is blackly comical. Not all of this holds water, mainly because it takes so long for anyone to connect Cesar to the chaos he is causing. But the film's slick, involving style pulls us into the web of Almodovar-style intrigue, making the apartment block almost like a haunted house in the process. And the ending somehow leaves us both horrified and hopeful.