The Movie Waffler New to VOD - NIGHT SWIM | The Movie Waffler


A family discover their new home's swimming pool has a dark secret.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Bryce McGuire

Starring: Wyatt Russell, Kerry Condon, Amélie Hoeferle, Gavin Warren

Night Swim poster

Writer/director Bryce McGuire's 2014 short Night Swim is a simple piece of horror storytelling. At a mere five minutes it's essentially a reworking of the famous swimming pool sequence from Jacques Tourneur's Cat People with a shock ending tacked on. A decade later McGuire has expanded his short to feature length, but the result is a movie that struggles to work a simple idea into a full narrative. Stretching five minutes to 90, McGuire has turned a thimbleful of tension into a bathful of boredom.

Night Swim review

McGuire opens his feature length reworking with a 1992 set prologue that sets a sinister tone the movie never subsequently replicates. Seeing her sickly brother's missing toy boat bobbing in her family' swimming pool, a young girl decides to fish it out. Anyone old enough to remember being terrorised by public information films as a kid will have a visceral reaction to seeing the kid edge closer to peril as they stretch across the water. If McGuire were British I might surmise his film was inspired by The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water, the 1973 Donald Pleasence narrated PIF which highlighted the dangers of playing around bodies of water and terrorised a generation of kids.

Things go downhill when we cut to the present and the main narrative sets in. Having given up his baseball career due to the onset of MS, Ray Waller (Wyatt Russell) and his family - wife Eve (Kerry Condon), teenage daughter Izzy (Amélie Hoeferle) and young son Elliot (Gavin Warren) - move into the home where tragedy struck in the prologue. Despite almost drowning when he tries to retrieve a baseball, Ray becomes enamoured with the pool, and Eve agrees that some time in the water could help with his condition. It does more than help; it seems the pool's waters contain healing powers, and Ray finds himself miraculously returning to his old self.

Night Swim review

Of course, there's always a downside to such things. Ray's rehabilitation comes at a price as the pool begins to terrorise his family, seemingly requiring a sacrifice in return. It's a reworking of the old Monkey's Paw story, but modern viewers will likely see it as a Pet Sematary knockoff, complete with a family cat that goes missing only to later make a suspicious return.

McGuire pads out his feature with a lot of clunky mythos building that never quite settles on a coherent theme. Early on a creepy pool cleaner puts out the laughable notion that water is angry at man's attempts to confine it in swimming pools. The film can't decide if the danger is restricted to the pool or if any body of water, no matter how small, poses a threat (ala 2013's Ghost Shark, in which the spirit of a murdered shark can materialise in a glass of water). There's an unintentionally hilarious scene where Condon's Eve freaks out as she watches someone pour water from a jug, and I was reminded of that scene in The Happening where Mark Wahlberg has a similar interaction with a plastic plant. You have to assume Condon signed on for this before receiving her Oscar nomination for The Banshees of Inisherin.

Night Swim review

The attempts at creating suspenseful sequences become monotonous as McGuire continually riffs on the same theme, that old Cat People shtick of a swimmer seeing sinister shapes above the water line. There are only so many times you can show someone reaching across a body of water before the audience stops caring whether they fall in or not. This is the shallow end of horror.

Night Swim is on UK/ROI VOD now.

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