We’re opening our 2024 horror season not with a bang but with a, well, something that sounds a bit like gunfire. Night Swim is a solid but also awfully stereotypical horror movie introducing to the genre exactly one novel concept: a haunted swimming pool. Move over hospitals, decaying mansions, and houses in the middle of nowhere, a villainous pool is here! I wonder what we’ll get next, a haunted trampoline? Joking aside, the concept is pretty good and it has a bit of a backstory. And when I say a bit, I really mean that because we won’t learn a lot of lore here.
Apart from that, you can count on a classic horror setup: a family moves into a new house with a pool, and then weird shit starts happening. To me, it looks and feels awfully like the eighties classic Poltergeist. I’m sure you remember the skeleton swimming scene from that movie. By the way, those were real skeletons swimming in that filthy pool of water, something actress JoBeth Williams found out only after they finished shooting the scene. I’m telling you, man, the eighties were something else. Night Swim began its journey back in 2014 as a short film.
A couple of years back, it was picked up by Jason Blum and James Wan (The Conjuring franchise) and this is how we got here. Now, general audiences and critics alike didn’t like this feature version of the movie. Their main complaint is that it’s boring and without almost any scares. I’m guessing this is a consequence of an aggressive marketing campaign. They usually do this with semi-indie movies that do well with test audiences. Next thing you know the ads promoting the movie are everywhere. And we also should not forget about a misleading trailer making the movie into something that’s not.
I enjoyed Night Swim. It’s not the best horror movie out there but it’s also not the worst. A forgettable time-killer that might hit some harder than others. Our main character, Ray Waller, played by Wyatt Russell (Overlord) suffers from MS. At least it’s not cancer man because the hypochondriac in me just goes overboard with a story like that. Finally, there’s the question of water. Deep water, to be more precise. I’m not that scared of water but there’s something inherently creepy about these bodies of water, both small and large. Bryce McGuire, who wrote and directed the movie, drew inspiration from his childhood in Florida.
Floods, boating accidents, sharks, and drowning incidents are all very real. I mean, I vaguely recall something about the fifties when men used to get blackout drunk in the yard eventually jumping into the pool to end their lives. Moving on, in terms of scares, there will be a couple of effective jumpscares and several creepy apparitions. After all, this is a PG-13 movie so don’t count on a lot of graphic stuff. I feel like they needed to expand the backstory, delving deeper into the history of why this shit is happening in the first place. Perhaps tie it in with legends surrounding the elusive fountain of youth or something. And if you use this idea in a Night Swim sequel, I want my royalty check mailed.
They opted to focus on the family drama instead, which was a decent move. The performances were average although I think Russell was struggling towards the end. During the “climactic” finale he was quite detached from reality. I guess all that water finally got to him. We all float down here Georgie! Just like last year’s The Boogeyman, this is cannon fodder for horror fans. Something to watch after a busy day at work while discussing what would you do in that situation. Perhaps bottle that pool water and market it as an energy drink. I’m giving that idea out for free.