Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory. The internet is a goldmine of sites and channels that specialize in dealing with all manner of cover ups. But even before there was social media and web pages, there were stories and movies. Many of these deal with the government conducting clandestine experiments on society. Night Sweats is a 2019 thriller about a possible epidemic conspiracy.
The movie takes place in New York City in 2017. A sudden rash of deaths has infected the city. All the victims seem to have a common bond with a self help company. Yuri is a skateboarder who has taken it upon himself to try to solve the mystery. What he discovers runs much deeper than he could have ever imagined.
The most important thing about any conspiracy movie is to create a sense of paranoia. It is important for the characters and the audience to not be able to trust anyone. This feeling is not created until well into the film. If anything, Night Sweats plays more like a jumbled mystery than anything else. Things happen and Yuri seems to uncover clues, but things seem to be aimlessly moving forward until about halfway through.
Even after Night Sweats gets some direction, there is no sense of everyone being in on some grand scheme. That actually never happens. It is not until the third act that any hint of paranoia is even introduced. Even then movie does not have its audience feel Yuri’s building paranoia. Instead, he literally explains what is happening. This eliminates any chance at tension the movie may have had.
Another reason the audience never feels the proper sense of aniexty is the direction of Andrew Lyman-Clarke. Quite simply, it is all over the place. There are random close ups, needless slow motion shots, and dolly shots used for no apparent reason. Since this is done with no meaning early in the film, when it is done later it is hard to tell if it means anything. What makes things even more confusing is these differing camera shots are used for various characters.
Night Sweats is also hindered by its dialogue. It is entirely possible, the script was supposed to sound natural. While nothing ever sounds forced, many things come off as attempts to be cool. When you have a skateboarder named Yuri talking about the Olympics being in Denver, you get an idea of what you are in store for. However, just in case you don’t, the movie doubles down on veggie burgers.
Along with the stilted conversation between the main characters, there is the nonchalant manner in which medical personnel speak. The symptoms of the recently deceased are read with as much passion as someone looking over the drive-thru menu at Burger King. There is never any true sense of urgency or concern. Again, it is just a bunch of stuff happening.
The worst part of it all, is that Night Sweats has an interesting premise. An epidemic on the verge of being spread throughout a city may not be original, but it can be fun if done right. The fear of an unknown disease is absolutely terrifying and can be played to maximum effect. Night Sweats has some good moments, including a nonsensical twist ending that is a lot of fun. The main issue is the execution is so haphazard, leaving the movie relegated to the “what could have been” pile.