Review: Night Swim

Haunted house? No, haunted swimming pool.

American family the Wallers look for a new home, and come across one that even has a swimming pool. This would help the father, Ray, who is in need of physical therapy… But is there something evil lurking in the waters?

With production studio Blumhouse and James Wan’s names applied upon it, attention will be drawn to Night Swim. But it should be noted that the film is written and directed by relative newcomer Bryce McGuire, with the project originally being a short of his, with the same title.

The film stars Wyatt Russell, Kerry Condon, Gavin Warren, and Amélie Hoeferle as the principle family members. The film has been given a very cold reception by audiences so far. Night Swim certainly isn’t your typical horror affair.

The film begins with some generic horror writing; we see an Asian family living at the house, with their young daughter being summoned to the pool in the middle of the night. The pool does this by noisily (??) having her brother’s toy boat appear. Not only does this seem unlikely, but the film is also compelled to give us a fake jump-scare with a door knock sound. (Please, Blumhouse. Stop. Nothing scary has happened yet, we shouldn’t even expect something scary at this point.)

Fast forward and the Waller family’s husband and father Ray is lamenting his degenerative condition that stopped his career in baseball. The family, especially wife Eve, support him at all times. Despite him almost drowning in the pool while viewing their potential future home, they buy it as their doctor’s list of remedies include swimming. Personally, nearly drowning in a house’s swimming pool would be a pretty big mark to not buy the place.

The pool’s first victim is the family cat. This is barely a spoiler, because unfortunately, the film never establishes this cat beforehand. Genuinely, this cat could be mistaken for a stray just before it dies. Which doesn’t help that this affects young Elliot, who was (apparently) close with the cat.

Another sign that you probably shouldn’t bother…

Without going any further with what happens, it is clear to see that the film does stumble into the usual roadblocks and problems that horror films always do. And this is only the first act. So do not expect Night Swim to grab you immediately with integrity.

With some ropey CGI for the spooks, and some rather debateable performances from Wyatt Russell, Night Swim‘s quality is very much peaks and troughs. As well as the mileage of how convincing you find a haunted swimming pool.

But… There’s something about it. It is very easy to nitpick to hell and back, but there is something compelling about it as a premise. There is an early scene (probably taken directly from the short, as all the best ideas usually do when there’s a short) with Elliot approaching a voice that seems to be coming from the pool’s overflow drain. Something about that sequence resonated with me in a similar way to Japanese horror, such as The Grudge or Dark Water.

From that point on, the film does have a ethereal quality to it; you are not sure what is going to happen. Certainly, the final act goes loopy, but it does feel like escalation befitting the setup and the premise, which maintains the sense of unease and mystery. Perhaps it also helps if you don’t like swimming and being immersed in water is unpleasant. From the vast void of endless water below you, the prospect of something being down there, to simply the sensation of losing the floor of a pool as you walk to the deep end.

It isn’t a great film, but it really tries to make excuses for how a family could have a haunted swimming pool and want to use it.

Additional Marshmallows: The dad does not know the difference between a bikini and a one-piece swimsuit, apparently.

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