Night Swim Review

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When Jaws came out almost 50 years ago, people were terrified to go back into the water. Not just the beach, but pools as well. A shark in the pool might sound impractical, but that speaks to the dread that Steven Spielberg summoned. Night Swim draws inspiration from Jaws in addition to Poltergeist and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Bryce McGuire’s film never reaches the same level of terror, however. While the premise overflows with potential, Night Swim comes off as shallow in its execution. For every solid scare, several other scenes leave you with a sinking feeling (not the kind you want from a film like this).

Take the first scene, for example. A young child wanders outside to fetch a lost boat, only for a monster to pull them into a watery grave. If you’re thinking, “That sounds exactly like the opening of It,” get ready for a long exercise in déjà vu. A film like this wouldn’t be complete without a family who moves into a haunted house. Technically, the house itself isn’t haunted. The ghouls are restricted to the pool, which isn’t such a bad deal considering what the Lutzs and Perrons went through.

Although a haunted pool isn’t as chilling as a haunted house, it still invites plenty of possibilities. Pools are alluring, but they can also be kind of creepy, especially when swimming at night. You don’t even need to add a supernatural element per se. You could make a horror survival movie about getting trapped under a pool cover or stuck in a pool train. Night Swim goes for the supernatural scares, however. While this still could’ve made for a fun night out, the creatures lurking in the darkness are nothing special and the lore surrounding the pool is confusing.

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McGuire, who based the film on a short he posted to YouTube ten years ago, has a capable eye for direction. It’s in the dialogue and characters where Night Swim sinks. There’s a particular line reading from Ben Sinclair as a pool guy so pretentiously laughable that you’d swear it was originally written for Lady in the Water. Unfortunately, Night Swim isn’t entertainingly bad enough to be in the same class as an M. Night Shyamalan movie. Most of the film is just standard and predictable. Inoffensive for those in need of a horror fix, but hardly memorable.

What keeps the film afloat are the performances. Wyatt Russell continues his ascent as a reliable leading man, playing a former baseball player who gets his mojo back by swimming in the pool. Kerry Condon, fresh off her Oscar nomination for The Banshees of Inisherin, does her best to bring depth to a typical matriarch role. While the cast does what they can, they aren’t given much to work with on paper. If Jaws left people afraid to step foot in the water, Night Swim may supply the confidence to get their feet wet again. And sorry, but no film will ever make Marco Polo scary.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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