Either Night Swim would be a new horror gimmick that scared audiences worldwide or a lesson in the backstroke maneuver. This was not the case with the new feature film Night Swim from the “creative minds” that brought M3GAN and The Conjuring franchise to households. Like the Titan Submersible, Night Swim had potential but it quickly implodes with a nasty dose of gibberish dialogue and a concoction of horror ingredients that looked to be the result of a bartender pouring all of the leftover spilled alcohol at the end of the night into one cup that sinks to the bottom. This is a poor excuse for a horror movie on all fronts where even actors Kerry Condon and Wyatt Russell can’t save the screams that can be heard at the bottom of the neighborhood pool.
Haunted horror tropes are a brilliant element to add to cinema. Haunted houses, hotels, cabins, and even cruise liners have had their fair share of screen time. Even demonic stoves and kitchen appliances have made it into the schlocky cinematic landscape over the years, but a household pool is an original idea – one that could be chock-full of creative, suspenseful choices and scares. That is not this movie Night Swim. When a movie promotes its trailers and posters as, “from the minds that brought the world M3GAN and The Conjuring”, that’s a warning sign that the film is going to be bad, because James Wan and Jason Blum probably didn’t even show up on the set but for a couple of hours one afternoon to receive credit. Night Swim is a movie made by fanboys of horror who wanted to throw everything they loved from their childhoods into a feature-length film that was best kept at three minutes.
The writer and director in charge of this outfit is Bruce McGuire who at times has a great setup for a narrative to go the distance, along with some decent visuals within its wheelhouse regarding building dread around a hopping neighborhood pool. But these extremely short bursts of sequences can’t make up for the mess this movie ultimately is. Wyatt and Kerry play a married couple with two teenage-ish kids known as the Waller family. McGuire must have loved Russell’s character Everybody Wants Some because he plays the same baseball character from that film in Night Swim named Ray. He is dealing with a serious health issue and moving his family to a new house in a different city. The family lands on this older house with a giant pool. But the first scene would state that this pool eats people and makes their bodies disappear.
What unfolds throughout the film is a cavalcade of horror elements that break every rule in the genre and use almost every trope with no rhyme or reason to it. What can this haunted pool do? It can eat people, possess anyone, shove its smoke-like essence into a body, manipulate water from any source far from the pool itself, and create ghostly apparitions that have real-world effects. Not only that, the film doesn’t know if it wants this pool to be evil or good-natured. On the one hand, it murders children and scares everyone, but on the other hand, it can cure deadly diseases in a matter of minutes. Like the family and pool in Night Swim, this trusted narrator sacrificed his time to sit through this 93-minute painfully long horror movie so that the rest of the world doesn’t have to.
Night Swim ends abruptly with no real motive or care in the world. The dialogue is laughable and only belongs to those ’70s-era Grindhouse movies, although it’s evident that McGuire was trying to convince anyone this movie had any semblance of dramatic scenes in it. The best sequence in the movie is delivered when a comical pool technician comes over to see what’s wrong with the pool. This actor knew the role and the film and fully committed to his 90 seconds of screen time which was the most memorable part of the film and echoes that brilliant cameo in M3GAN with the detective laughs about the child who had his ear ripped off. But there are no scares here and more importantly no assembly of a coherent story. This is beyond fixable – even with an R-rated director’s cut. Night Swim is flat-out lazy filmmaking at its finest.
Written by: Bryan Kluger