Night Swim (2024)

Night Swim Review

Night Swim (2024)

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, here comes “Night Swim,” your January horror movie from Blumhouse.

A year ago this week, that spot on the calendar was occupied by “M3GAN,” and while nothing will ever reach that film’s gonzo heights or cultural impact, everyone involved seems at least vaguely aware of the supremely silly concept they’re dealing with here. It’s about a pool … that eats people. Once again, Jason Blum and James Wan two of the biggest names in horror prove they know how to scare us while winking at us. Before this we’ve seen inanimate objects get anthropomorphized for thrills and chills with “Rubber” (about a homicidal tire) and “In Fabric” (about a homicidal dress), but a pool just feels so soothing, so luxurious, that turning on those who seek its embrace is an inspired twist.

It’s also nice that the particular pool happens to be aggressively bland. This is not some mid-century kidney-shaped oasis; nor is it a modern-day monstrosity with built-in slides, a swim-up bar and a grotto. No no no: This is a concrete rectangular hole in the ground like the one you spent long summer days playing Marco Polo in if you grew up Southern California in the 1970s.

Writer-director Bryce McGuire expands upon his short with Rod Blackhurst into his feature debut by toying with the idea of an ancient and insatiable evil lurking beneath the surface of banal suburbia; not exactly new territory (see Stephen King; see David Lynch). But McGuire establishes enough tension up front and makes good use of sound design and camera angles to create an eerie sustained mood.

We flash back to 1992 as we watch a pigtailed tween girl get gobbled up by the pool when she reaches out at night for an elusive toy boat. Cut to the present, as a family is about to move into that same house with that pool which has crumbled from decades of neglect. McGuire makes some striking choices early on with upside-down shots and reflections, including the bright image of clouds and blue sky shining on the leaf-strewn cover of the pool. This place may seem inviting, he seems to be saying, but it’s not reliable. The steady gurgling and belching of the filter provide an unsettling rhythm; the groan of the diving board hints at further perils.

The Waller family is initially daunted by the cleanup effort but also hopeful about the stability and healing they believe this home outside Minneapolis will bring them. Ray Waller (Wyatt Russell) is a former Major League Baseball star whose multiple sclerosis diagnosis has forced him to retire from a game that has defined him for most of his life. His wife Eve (“The Banshees of Inisherin” Oscar nominee Kerry Condon) looks forward to settling down after moving their family from city to city so many times over so many years. Teenage daughter Izzy (Amélie Hoeferle) has gotten better at pretending to fit in by maintaining an air of cool detachment, but younger brother Elliot (Gavin Warren), a shy scrawny kid, hasn’t been as successful.

For all of them, the pool is a promise: healing waters, idle afternoons, socializing or a quiet moment under the stars. McGuire makes things queasy with distorted underwater perspective until he doesn’t. Eventually he leans too hard on jump scares and never to be explained bits where someone inside the pool sees someone standing on the edge, watching them but no one’s there. “Night Swim” then goes out of its way to explain what’s really happening, and that’s less interesting than if this pool were just plain evil.

Though I suspect that wasn’t McGuire’s intention, the reveal of what’s causing all this terror is laugh-out-loud funny. “Night Swim” also features welcome jolts in small roles from Nancy Lenehan as a Minnesota-nice real estate agent who sells the family their house and Ben Sinclair as an eccentric pool technician. Russell knows exactly what movie he’s in; some of his line deliveries are innocent and earnest to absurd degrees. He might as well be saying: Come on in, the water’s fine.

Watch Night Swim For Free On Gomovies.

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