Film Review: Night Sweats (2019)

42MdnaAJust in time for the Coronavirus, Andrew Lyman-Clarke’s second feature harnesses the anxiety of mysterious deadly diseases in his inconsistent thriller, Night Sweats. Allegedly based on true events that happened to his friend, Seth Panman, the story follows a young skateboarder and recent transplant to NYC, as he investigates the sudden death of his roommate. He slowly uncovers a pharmaceutical conspiracy tied to the self-help start-up True Healing, whilst pursuing a relationship with a dispassionate waitress. Lyman-Clarke’s script is compelling enough to hold a viewer till the end, but it’s ultimately disappointing and misogynist to boot.

The story kicks off with Yuri (Kyle DeSpiegler) arriving in the Big Apple from Colorado, wide-eyed and hopeful. His new roommate is Jake (John Francomacaro), a childhood pal who works as a videographer for True Healing. The clandestine company sells personal trauma interviews to Pharmaceutical companies and also purports to be creating a library for people who have experienced similar traumas. Yuri doesn’t think much of Jake’s job until one night when Jake inadvertently interrupts a Yuri’s date with MK (Mary Elaine Ramsey) by barfing all over his room and suffering a seizure. Yuri has only just dialed 911 when a neighbor claiming to be an EMT knocks on the door, does something unseen with Jake, and then leaves before the real paramedics arrive. Yuri thinks back on this man the next day when he learns Jake didn’t survive the night.

His suspicions grow when an eccentric woman from the CDC (Allison Mackie) shows up asking questions and collecting vomit samples. Dr. Freeman suggests that Jake took some bad Molly, prompting Yuri to check his room for the stash. Instead, Yuri finds a microphone hidden inside a trophy that True Healing “awarded” Jake for completing 100 interviews. This propels Yuri into Gittes/Chinatown territory, as he takes over his roommates’ job at True Healing to find out the truth at any cost.

Yuri suspects he’s in over his head when he meets Jake’s old boss, Nick Frankenthaler (John Wesley Shipp, TVs Dawson’s Creek, The Flash) who is not a nice man. His paranoia grows when he discovers that True Healing has a high employee turnover rate, and that whatever killed Jake seems to be spreading. Can Yuri unlock this insidious puzzle box before it’s too late?

The principal cast do their level best with a twisty, but otherwise unremarkable script. The camera work isn’t too distracting, except when attempting to show the first-person effects of the disease. Yuri’s motivations are not particularly clear either. He seems to get over the death of his “best friend” within hours and hardly mentions him again except in relation to his investigation. We don’t know anything about their relationship other than the fact that they met when they were 5. His single-minded mission to expose a conspiracy seems to have very little to do with avenging the death of his friend.

Despite these issues, a discernible micro-budget, and a poorly-realized degenerative brain ailment, the film could have worked were it not for the big reveal. I won’t spoil it, but it involves egregious slut-shaming that absolutely cancelled out any enjoyment I would have otherwise gotten from the mystery itself. There was truly no need for it either, and it suggests that perhaps Lyman-Clarke has some issues to work out with an ex-girlfriend. To quote the film, “Denial is a powerful thing.” Filmmaker, heal thyself.

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