Director Jaume Balagueró ([Rec] and [Rec] 2) switches gears a bit with his creepy new film Sleep Tight. The film was written by Alberto Marini (Films to Keep You Awake: To Let) and inhabits a much different tonal space than the [REC] films.
To that end I recently shot Balagueró a few questions via email. We touched on the change of pace this film represents, working with 700 live cockroaches and what to expect from his next directorial effort, [REC] 4: Apocalypse
IN the film “Toiling silently among the residents of an everyday Barcelona apartment building, doorman César (Luis Tosar, Even the Rain, Miami Vice) harbors a dark secret: his sole desire in life is to make others unhappy. When he sets his sights on Clara (Marta Etura, Cell 211, Dark Blue Almost Black), one of his building’s cheeriest residents, his sick need blossoms into a full-fledged obsession.” Sleep Tight was nominated for more than 20 awards in Spain and won six Gaudi Awards, including Best Director, Best Actor for Luis Tosar and Best Screenplay.
Sleep Tight seems more atmospheric and suspenseful, less chaotic, than some of your earlier films. Did you set out to try something new or did the approach organically grow out of the material?
After the experience of [REC], which was set up to be very intense physical horror in both plot and pacing, I felt the need to return to a more conventional and calculated film. The script for Slep Tight came to me at just the right time. It was the perfect opportunity to develop a classic story and to explore horror from a more conventional sense. Being calmer, it allowed me to create a much more sophisticated brand of suspense – with classic elements of conventional film language, such as its music, editing, and staging.
In terms of the casting process, how long did it take to find the right fits for César and Clara?
It was very quick. I personally knew Luis and Clara. They are two of the most important players in modern Spanish cinema. As I read through the script, I knew it had to be them.
What was the hardest, most unsettling moment in the film for you to craft?
It was really tricky to work with almost 700 live cockroaches, especially the considering the aversion felt by some members of the cast and crew… but as the situation normalized, the cockroaches became cast members! Another somewhat complicated scene for me was when Clara and her boyfriend are making love, unaware that César is hidden under the bed… because Marta Etura (Clara) and Luis Tosar (César) were actually a couple in real life! It started out a bit uncomfortable for me, but the truth is that the scene ended up being very fun for everyone. And, truthfully, aside from that, it was a very comfortable shoot, which I really enjoyed.
There have been some classic “stalker” films. Did any of them influence you?
There are always films that remain in your head forever, but the truth is that I always try to empty my head of references before I start working on a new film. Also, in the case of Sleep Tight, the approach to the “stalker” story was completely different, as it’s told from the point of view of the villain, not the victim. It was new territory for me – and audiences – to explore.
You’ve got [REC] 4: Apocalypse coming up. How does it differ from [REC] 3: Genesis? Do you return to the found footage conceit that that film abandoned halfway through? Or do you keep barreling ahead in the more traditionally shot realm?
[REC]⁴ will be a return to the harder horror of the first two films. I cannot say much more. While I will continue to use subjective narrative, I believe this format has done all it can. I will, however, remain faithful to the transgressive and playful spirit of the [REC] series, which, I believe, is actually their hallmark.