Night Sweats

4 Mar

Edgy thriller with a pulse on the coronavirus scare

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With the coronavirus (and fear) spreading in the United States, “Night Sweats” checks in not only as a cautionary tale but also as a pretty taut thriller as well. The vast reaching plot centers on an infectious disease break out in New York City that while not a pandemic, confounds public health authorities among others. The lo-fi production casts an ambitious net and smartly makes the most of its cloistered locations—spartan millennial apartments, dive bars and the kind of generic office space that became its own character in Kitty Green’s “The Assistant”— framing it all in tight and embossing the emotional impact.

We catch up with a wide-eyed Yuri (Kyle DeSpiegler) as he meets Mary Kate (Mary Elaine Ramsey) a toothsome wait person at the hip haunt his roommate Jake (John Francomacaro) works at. Sparks fly and soon enough, Yuri and the coquettish object of his desire are back at his place and between the sheets. Handsome people in the throes of the ultimate pleasure are always a captivating spectacle, but before the rise to satisfaction can be notched, mood killing wails ripple down the hall from Jake’s room. The cause of the coitus interruptus? A satanic seizure replete with convulsive vomiting and eyes rolled back into the head and ghastly white. The two young lovers panic as most anyone would but at least have the presence to dial 911. In a freaky twist, the second Yuri hangs up the phone, a mysterious mountain of man claiming to be an EMT comes a knocking and attends to Jake. Just what he does in that brief interlude before the ambulance arrives is unclear and concerning to both Yuri and MK. Days later Jake’s dead, MK’s suddenly aloof and the restless Yuri uncovers a bug planted in Jake’s room inside a trophy from a self help company called True Healing. More cases of the illness crop up, health authorities (Allison Mackie as the lead) continue to pepper Yuri with questions, and Yuri, unsatisfied with the lack of answers, goes undercover as a new hire at True Healing.

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Rickety in construct, yet riveting in its enigmatic aura “Night Sweats” hits a few plausibility snags along the way. Treading on the notion that fact is stranger than fiction, before the credits roll we’re informed that the film’s based on true events. A delve into the the press notes tells us that one of the writers, Seth Panman, toiled at a shady self help firm that had some dubious endeavors in the works. “Night Sweats”’s clearly a jumping off from there and what holds Andrew Lyman-Clarke‘s ever expanding thriller together are the edgy performances by Ramsey as the barbed lure and DeSpiegler as the dude interrupted, with a can do attitude. The behind the scene stars that help sell it are the moody atmospheric score by John Kaefer that adds pins-and-needles to a scene and Hilarion Banks’s floral yet focused cinematography. It’s not fully incubated but “Night Sweats” does manage to get under your skin.

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