Blu-ray Review: “Night Swim”


Haunted/possessed things movies are a tough sell. It’s harder when the thing in question is a large stationary object that’s easily avoidable like a backyard pool. It gives the audience’s instinctual lizard brain time to kick in and say “Well, don’t go there. Problem solved.” For a haunted, cursed, or possessed object film to work there needs to be a reason basic avoidance tactics wouldn’t work. Bryce McGuire’s Night Swim almost makes it work, great performances abound, but the haunting horrors rest on too many telegraphed jump scares to let real terror rise to the surface.

Our little film opens with the Waller family trying to find a new home. Ray (Wyatt Russell) used to be a rising MLB legend and a hell of a hitter, but illness has taken him out of the game. Now he’s trying to find the right place with his wife Eve (Kerry Condon) and their kids Izzy (Amelie Hoeferle) and Elliot (Gavin Warren). They need enough room for their growing kids but also the space for Ray to get treatment and hopefully get back into the game. And they find the perfect house, complete with a spring-fed pool at a price they can afford. As the pool seemingly restores Ray’s health setting his illness into remission, it comes at a cost that threatens the lives of his family.

Now Night Swim had modest origins. Writer/Director Bryce McGuire and Rod Blackhurst originally dipped a toe into the creepy pool as a short film in 2014. It was popular enough to get packed into a collection of horror shorts and caught enough attention to get the feature-length expansion. Conceptually, this film has a lot going for it. Haunted or possessed objects or locations have any number of tropes associated with them, but they’re tropes because more often than not they work. An evil Force threatening those who enter its domain is the makings for any number of classics. But how that force exacts its deadly tole is the key. While the personal angle of Ray and his family has some merit, the film, unfortunately, banks on more jump scares rather than real terror. But personally I appreciate the intents of the film, and that is to provide a thriller for the whole family (which is rare these days).
All kudos for the opening and setup. The film’s opening moments is some delicious creepy stuff. You may be ahead of it and know what will befall our first victim, but how it happens and the timing is pitch-perfect. Likewise when Ray takes his first plunge into the pool, genuinely creepy good stuff. After that, the horrors just slowly become more routine. There are some stylish bits and some interesting character beats, but nothing we didn’t see with Jack Torrance at the Overlook Hotel or George Lutz and his modest little house in Amityville albeit those films were notably dryer.
Night Swim may be a pretty thin feature overall, but the cast saves a lot of the effort. Wyatt Russell keeps showing up and giving it all he’s got proving he’s more than the talented genes that spawned him. Kerry Condon delivers another great turn as our emotional anchor. The feature is well-shot and does manage a creepy atmosphere, I just wish there was more to it. The premise is there, it just doesn’t visit new ground or reach to new depths to be a truly standout entry.
New films often shine in this category. Night Swim’s Blu Ray picture is flawless. With the audio just is great. Lot’s of subwoofer activity especially during the scare scenes. We get four segments in the extras section including “Demons of the Depths”, which is an interesting view on how they provide scares with a swimming pool. The writer/director commentary with Bryce McGuire is the bigger extra. He offers up a nice discussion about the film, he’s very enthusiastic to discuss the project and often pauses to marvel at the opportunity he had to get to make this film. Flying solo he doesn’t let the material linger, only pauses to highlight an upcoming scene. After that, we have a few featurettes, all pretty basic but they do have some background about the making of the film.
⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ movie (out of five)
⭐️⭐️ extras (out of five)
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ picture (out of five)
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ sound (out of five)

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