Movie Reviews

Night Swim Review: Shallow, But A Nice Night Watch

In many “Night Swim” reviews, we were told that this is actually the first one in which the main villain is – strangely or not – a haunted swimming pool. This fact may be surprising since we have already seen horror movies about countless haunted, cursed, and murderous products, for example, a bed, a sofa, a refrigerator, jeans, drones, kites, and even donuts. The common thing is that you probably haven’t heard of these films, most of which are mediocre horrors produced on a ridiculous budget. Movies that the only reason to watch is to laugh at them.

“Night Swim” claims to be more severe than these films. It is the first film created after the merger between the two horror giants: Jason Blum’s Blumhouse (“Halloween,” “insidious,” “Paranormal Activity,” “The Purge,” “Get Out,” “Us” and more) and “Atomic Monster” by J. James Wan, who is partly responsible for the films in the expansive cinematic universe of “The Conjuring.” The problem is that, although the film has some beautiful moments, it manages to make the bizarre subject clichéd, and most of all – not scary or innovative much. Read the full “Night Swim” Review.

Meet The Wallers

You probably know it from countless horror movies: a family moves into a new house and discovers a little too late that it is haunted and has an unpleasant history. The pet is one of the first victims; the children are the first who suspect that something weird is happening here and that a demonic entity controls someone in the family. This is the main plot line of “Night Swim,” with the main difference – for better or for worse – being that the main enemy here is swimming pool fucking.

The family that is moving to the new house is the Wallers. The father, Ray (Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn), is a baseball player who had to retire after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The mother, Kerry Condon (nominated for an Oscar for “Ghosts of Inheritance,” and also the voice behind F.R.I.D.A.Y in the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) accompanies him in the struggle, hoping that this time they will be stuck at home for enough years, as opposed to a baseball career full of transfers and transitions. Izzy (Amélie O’Farrell, “The Hunger Games: A Ballad of Snakes and Songbirds”) is a beautiful young woman interested in one of her classmates. The family unit includes the reclusive Elliot (Gavin Warren, “First Man”), who tries to play baseball under the heavy shadow of his father. There’s also a cat, but let’s say don’t expect to get too attached to it.

When they move into the new house, everything looks great. They discover a swimming pool with healing properties and natural spring water. At first, it even helps Ray recover from the disease. But little by little, the family members come across various conventions of horror movies related to the pool: mysterious noises, figures that appear above the water and disappear, lighting that flashes to prove that the house is haunted (or an electrician needs to be called), scary ghosts (including one that likes the game “Marco Polo”) and more. The family members will only realize later that this pool, which no one has used for 15 years, has a dark history. In 1992, a girl disappeared in the pool during a night swim. And it turns out she wasn’t the only one.

Night Swim: Like Haunted House Movies, Only With A Pool

“Night Swim” is based on a short film by Rod Blackhurst and Bryce McGuire from 2004. The film, which lasts about four minutes, presents roughly the same idea repeated in the movie: a girl is swimming in a pool at night and sees a mysterious figure through the water. Bryce McGuire once said that the film is semi-autobiographical and refers to his childhood experiences as a child growing up in Florida surrounded by oceans and fearing hurricanes, drowning, shark attacks, and more. “I saw Jaws when I was 10,” he said. “We had a swimming pool, and I remember being in the pool alone at night when my younger brother turned off the lights. I was convinced, without any doubt, that the water was an abyss.”

It’s hard to say that this short film is too impressive or succeeds in conveying the fears of that boy who grew up in Florida to the viewer. It did show some mastery of the creators in the game’s rules. For example, you could photograph the pool from angles contributing to tension. Can this be made into a successful horror film? This is another question because we saw significant difficulty in turning a short story into a feature movie.

Sometimes, the problem is that they choose to present a considerable background story that isn’t interesting (“Five Nights at Freddy’s,” for example), or the film looks like several short films sloppily spliced together. “Night Swim” is a bit smeared and doesn’t justify itself as a complete film, which lasts an hour and a half. Nevertheless, in my opinion, this is not due to the combination of background stories or the interweaving of too many subplots but mainly because the film is predictable and a little repetitive.

How To Make A Swimming Pool A Villain

The creators tried everything to make the pool the real enemy here. The viewers see the pool from many angles, from above or out of the water, day or night, and sometimes with black trails. With all the attempts worthy of appreciation, the pool manages to scare only partially because it is still just a pool, and you can not swim in it if you think there may be ghosts there. The main problem here is that the scary parts, especially the scary ones, are expected because we have already seen them in many horror movies.

If you take out of the picture the fact that the prominent place of action here is the pool, you get a movie that works according to the known formulas. Some scenes here may remind you of movies like “Poltergeist” (hopefully they didn’t put real monsters in the pool this time), “Jaws,” “Smile,” “The Creature from the Blue Lagoon” and others. In that regard, the film could have taken a few points for originality from 2021’s The Deep House, a movie about a haunted house that takes place almost entirely underwater.

The way the story is structured is also not too innovative and includes some scenes that have to be in this type of film: for example, a meeting of the horror with one of the previous tenants, in which a demon enters her body, so she says scary things in a menacing tone. Or the fact that the boy encounters a ghost, or whatever it is, that exposes him for the first time to that mysterious girl who disappeared.

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Night Swim: Familier Themes, Well Known Inspirations

Bryce McGuire, who has made short films until now, is responsible for directing and writing here, while Bryce co-wrote the script. It is evident the creators were aware of the horror genre, and here, too, you can see it positively and negatively. The film reminds us of some of Stephen King’s works, such as “It” and “The Shining,” for example, in the aspect of monstrous parenting. The problem is that these processes are not adequately described. The parents’ change and how they deal with the situation must be more convincing. The film presents the American dream and the dangers of suburban life, a theme that appears in many horror films. They almost always include a hamburger party scene that gets out of control because there is nothing more American than that.

To the credit of the cast, they try and often present convincing performances, even if there are a few cases where the dialogues don’t serve them. Russell proves that he is more than “the son of” and manages to convince as the father who is determined to deal with his illness, but a little less with the twist that his character goes through (in my opinion, mainly due to the script).

It is interesting to ask if part of how he portrays the character is influenced by his personal experience, similar to the one the character went through: White Russell was a former ice hockey player who retired due to injury. His father, Kurt Russell, was a baseball player who also had to retire following an injury. Condon is a very talented actress who is also trying but only has a little to work with. The children are generally doing a reasonable job, and in some cases, they are not behaving in complete stupidity.

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What Did The Audience And Critics Said About Night Watch?

In 2023, the collaboration between Blumhouse and Atomic Monster – then still unofficially – included Megan. The film opened the year, was a big hit at the box office, and received relatively positive reviews. It was pretty surprising because the beginning of the calendar year is not ideal for films. After the rush of summer blockbusters and before the Oscars, some studios and production companies send relatively junior films at the beginning of the year. “Megan” changed the rules a little, and the question asked is whether “Night Swim,” which opens in 2024 – this time under the official union of the two giant companies – will follow last year’s hit or other previous uninspiring films.

If you compare the film to Megan, it is clear that its achievements at the box office are much less impressive in all respects. It has grossed more than $47 million worldwide so far. It is indeed a reasonable amount compared to the budget (about 15 million dollars), but one that does not come close to the tremendous success of Megan (which raked in about 180 million dollars at the box office worldwide and spawned a sequel that will arrive in May 2025).

The critics and the audience were not very forgiving towards “Night Swim,” which means we are not sure we will see a sequel here. And I’m not sure it should because, at some moments, the feeling was that the creators were trying to squeeze the lemon in the pool to the fullest.

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Should You Watch Night Swim?

“Night Swim” is a clichéd film that, although it offers a new concept on paper, doesn’t do it in practice. The film had to be much more extreme to leave a mark. If we refer to it with an analogy from the world of pools, we can say that it stays mostly in shallow water and does not reach the depths that would make it more memorable. To its credit, the film had some decent shots, included some well-made scenes, and was watchable most of the time, like swimming in a pool. Therefore, in my eyes, it is more suitable for non-binding night viewing without expectations.

Most importantly, after we finally have a horror movie about a haunted pool, we have to think about other objects that have yet to star in the horror. How about horror movies that focus on a toaster, a murderous Bimba, or a roasted eggplant that gets out of control?

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