Sleep Tight; or why I am glad that my bed is directly on the floor
Have you ever wondered what it was like to be an incredibly unhappy man who works as the maintenance guy/doorman in an apartment building in Spain? No? Well then maybe you don’t need to watch this movie.
Actually, I think you should anyway. Because it’s pretty satisfying.
This isn’t a horror movie, per se. It is more of a disturbing psychological thriller. It’s not gory, or jumpy, or anything like that. But it is a well-crafted, intriguing portrait of a creepy, miserable, smart, horrible individual.
Cesar lives alone, in an apartment provided to him by the apartment manager of the building he looks after. He confesses at the start of the movie that he has always been incapable of happiness, and he ends up on the roof of his apartment building, ready to jump, on the regular. Poor Cesar.
But he has found a way to offset the mind-numbingness of his existence; he likes to secretly undermine the happiness of the people he encounters – and being a doorman, he encounters a lot of people. Even more, he has keys to the apartment buildings of a lot of people. On the surface he is all smiles and concern. Of course I can help you fix your clogged sink. I would be more than happy to watch your sick dog for you while you go out. Hold the door open. Hand you a paper. Greet you when you come and go. But underneath, he is just waiting for a chance to invade their apartments and make their lives as unbearable as he can.
Cesar has his particular sights set on one form of salvation; and its form is a woman named Clara. Hot, hot, super-hot Clara is a shining beacon of happiness. She dances around her apartment in her skivvies to the radio (which seems to play the worst English songs I’ve ever heard for some reason), and beams a 10 million megawatt smile at Cesar every morning as he hands her the paper and holds the door open for her. Nothing can get her down!
“How are you today?” He asks her every morning. And every morning her answer is always some variation of “FANTASTIC!”
So what is Cesar to do? He cannot abide seeing her smile day after day after day. Naturally, he takes it upon himself to make Clara’s life miserable. If he can wipe that smile off her face, he feels like he will finally be able to find the happiness he so craves. And he is right. She is awfully happy. Probably a little too happy, if you ask me.
This entire movie is about Cesar fucking Clara’s shit up. Infesting her house with cockroaches, (a word that sounds ADORABLE in Spanish); putting drain cleaner in her moisturizer so that it starts eating her face and body with rashes; sending her hate mail; killing her boyfriend (accidentally?), etc. And he spends an awful lot of time hiding under her bed, waiting for her to come home and fall asleep, so he can smother her with the ether that he keeps hidden in the underside of her mattress, and do things to her while she’s sleeping. Ok, that last part is really creepy.
Overall this movie is equally entertaining and disturbing, and makes for a tense, uncomfortable movie-watching experience. It is a fairly original story, at least from my experience with movies, and it is well told, from the acting, to the direction, to the cinematography. That Cesar never really gives a motive for his actions is perhaps part of this film’s true horror. He doesn’t want to kill his victims, or do real, lasting, physical harm to them. He is more intent on their complete emotional and mental annihilation; breaking their spirit; wanting them to live in complete and utter despair and misery for the rest of their lives for no real reason. And that is pretty terrifying.
That being said, I actually found that I developed a sort of liking for Cesar. Maybe it was the quality of the acting. Luis Tosar does a great job with Cesar. And yeah, Cesar was an obviously disturbed individual. But truth be told, I loved watching this story unfold. I kind of wanted him to figure his shit out. Maybe that makes me a disturbed individual. But hey, I never said I wasn’t.
The ending, which I will not divulge here, was extremely satisfying. All I will tell you that Cesar does finally learn how to be happy, which is what we all came here for, isn’t it?
Maybe Clara didn’t NEED to be mailed horrible letters, or have a deranged doorman hiding under her bed every night, drugging her with ether and then having his way with her. But then this movie wouldn’t exist, and that would be a shame.
Although, I have to admit, I am now very glad that I do not have a bedframe. Or a creepy, balding, Spanish doorman in my apartment building.