Night Swim (2024)

by - January 5th, 2024 - Movie Reviews


Forgettable Night Swim Drowns in a Pool of Suspenseless Monotony

While watching the new supernatural chiller Night Swim, there were several instances during the 98-minute running time when I thought to myself, “I bet this would have made a decent short.” Turns out, writer-director Bryce McGuire’s feature-length debut started out life as exactly that, and I’m curious enough to see what that version looked like that I’m going to try and watch it at the earliest opportunity.

Night Swim (2024) | PHOTO: Universal Pictures

As for this adaptation, McGuire’s updating of the material he conceived with writer Rod Blackhurst back in 2014 sadly leaves a great deal to be desired. The storytelling is muddled to the point of being haphazard. There are almost zero scares, and the suspense is at a bare minimum. Good ideas are left to languish in an unfinished state. There comes a point where it almost feels as if McGuire was making it up as he went along. So little of this thriller make sense that it’s impossible for it to generate a lasting emotional impact.

This is something of a shame, because, at least from a technical perspective, there is much about Night Swim that I found impressive. The creepily immersive sound design makes an impact. Editor Jeff McEvoy (M3GAN) does a fine job cutting together many of the key set pieces, his deft handling of the material generating a sense of uncertainty that frequently kept me on my toes while trying to visually decipher what was going on. Cinematographer Charlie Sarroff (Relic) does his best Bill Butler (the man who shot Jaws) impersonation, utilizing a variety of strange angles and inventive horizon points any time the characters go into the pool and unknowingly flirt with the ephemeral dangers lurking beneath the surface of the water.

It should also be said that there’s a fine performance from The Banshees of Inisherin Academy Award nominee Kerry Condon that’s definitely worth talking about. She brings an increasingly haunted depth to the proceedings and has palpable chemistry with costar Wyatt Russell. I liked how her character methodically attacked the unfathomable mystery she unexpectedly found herself forced to deal with.

But it’s all for naught. The plot is a bunch of mundane gobbledygook involving Ray Waller (Russell), a former Major League Baseball player battling multiple sclerosis who moves his family (Condon, Amélie Hoeferle, and Gavin Warren) into a suburban Minnesota home with a possessed swimming pool. At various moments, McGuire cribs from The Shining, It, Light’s Out, Poltergeist, and any number of haunted house flicks in which a malevolent spirit wants to munch on an unsuspecting victim’s soul (preferably that of a child).

At the core is a “be careful what you wish for” scenario as Ray discovers that the more time he spends in the pool, the faster his MS vanishes. Obviously, the tradeoff for this newfound health is going to be extreme, but for the life of me, I couldn’t have cared less. The film’s internal mythology is completely out of whack. There’s no reason fueling it. Or if there is, the rules for what this watery entity can do, when its powers are at their zenith, and who it wants to focus its attention on are so vague and take far too much effort to figure out and keep track of.

Night Swim (2024) | PHOTO: Universal Pictures

I’ll tell you the one thing Night Swim did make me want to do. When it was over, I immediately went home and put on the 2018 WWII action-horror yarn Overlord. It also stars Russell, and it’s far more satisfying. Strangely, it also has scenes in which a main character appears to excrete grotesque black goo from their facial orifices, begins to lose control of their sanity, and even tries to choke someone with one hand.

Of course, it also has the added benefit of being good, making it exceptionally easy to rewatch (and even easier to recommend). That is unfortunately not the case with McGuire’s opus. It quickly sinks to the bottom of the pool, and I imagine I wasn’t the only one at my promo screening drowning in boredom by the time the serviceable — if also inevitable — climax thankfully reached its conclusion.

Film Rating: 1½ (out of 4)

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