[Rec] director Jaume Balagueró’s 2011 film Mientras Duermes truly lives up to the earlier blockbuster, but in vastly different ways.
I recalled Indian (Tamil, to be specific) films like Vaali (Ajith in a double role) and Aasai (Prakashraj’s career-defining film) while watching Mientras Duermes, but unlike Indian films, there are no reasons offered to the complex, intelligent and sophisticated evil that lurks in Luis Tosar’s character.
The set-up is simple and as claustrophobic as [Rec] – the mild-mannered concierge of the building has his entire life revolving around the lobby of the apartment, his visits to this mother’s bedside in the hospital and another apartment where he mysteriously and deviously spends his nights!
Luis Tosar’s Cesar is highly inventive in his villainy and the fact that there’s no motive offered makes it all the more creepy. Marta Etura’s character (Clara) offers a nice counterpoint when she puts on a happy, pleasant face amidst mounting personal agony.
The most intriguing part of the film is how Jaume manipulates his audiences into nail-biting tension while witnessing a villain on the verge of being caught, but they aren’t rooting for anybody in particular!
There is a nice flourish with the ancillary characters who enhance the lead’s evil reputation – the little girl Ursula, who uses Cesar and almost pays for it in the end… the good-natured old lady Veronica, who Cesar uses to vent his disappointment with Clara… and the building’s owner who seems to be the only one who actually knows that the man is up to something fishy.
Despite some glaring loopholes (DNA-test by police, anyone?), this is a fabulously engaging thriller. The fact that evil lurks around without getting caught is perhaps what makes it such a convincingly creepy watch!
It is ironic that the English title of the film is ‘Sleep Tight’ – I hardly could, after watching this film!
Poster credit: Cineol.net