Jaume Balaguero, the director behind the "[Rec]" horror series, knows how to manipulate found footage. Give him a traditional camera and a mesmerizing lead actor and he can whip up a thriller that's both satisfying and original.
"Sleep Tight," out Jan. 8 on Blu-ray and DVD, follows an avuncular concierge whose smile mask a rotted, depraved soul.
César (Luis Tosar) helps oversee a Barcelona apartment building, but he spends a fair amount of time getting chewed out by his superior. The residents love him without question, an impressive scam since Cesar lives to make others miserable despite his phony smile.
And he's pretty darn good at it.
His sour soul turns most of its energy on a gorgeous tenant named Clara (Marta Clara), the kind of woman who always has a silly grin to share with others. That won't do, not if César has anything to say about it. And he'll use all of the tools at his disposal, including the keys to enter every unit in the building, to make sure Clara shares in his misery.
César's criminal impulses have made him sloppy. A pre-teen in the building is extorting money from him for her silence. His daily exchanges with his mother, who appears unresponsive in a hospital, give us glimpses into his mind and condition.
"Sleep Tight" offers little more than its intriguing concept for roughly 45 minutes. That's barely enough to sustain our interest despite a disturbingly precise lead performance and the film's minutely observed building details.
Once César pushes his luck once too often, "Sleep Tight" transforms into a certifiable sleeper.
Tosar holds it all together, conveying competence, ego and hatred as our anti-hero. Balaguero, for his part, isn't interested in cheap scares or other rote conventions. He demands our patience, and even while it's wearing thin he has something nastier in store for us. So does Lucas Vidal's score, a fitting complement to the emotional decay before our eyes.
"Sleep Tight' ends on a cold and unexpected note, one just as cunning as Cesar when cornered.
The Blu-ray release features "César's World," a making of featurette revealing the story was originally set to take place in New York. The deleted scenes include even more moments of César making others suffer while pretending to act in their best interests.