Night Swim – movie review

A backyard pool all but becomes a living entity in the horror film Night Swim. The malevolent force does its worst early on before we settle into the main storyline, which loops back to what happened at the start. The appearance of a toy boat seemingly operating by itself in the dead of night portends doom.

It’s summer 1992 and shortly after a young girl named Rebecca (Ayazhan Dalabayeva) drowns. Cut to the present day. A family of four is about to move into the house where the incident took place, oblivious to its history. Father Ray Waller (Wyatt Russell), a former pro baseballer, walks with a stick because he has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It’s been tough for him and his family. As the kids were growing up, they were constantly moving as he changed teams and now he is facing this major health battle. His doctor says water therapy could help.

When they move in, the pool is in a state of disrepair. But Ray and the family are up for the challenge; and soon enough the crystal-clear water is enticing. Ray’s improvement is marked. At the same time, his wife Eve (Kerry Condon), son Elliot (Gavin Warren) and daughter Izzy (Amelie Hoeferle) are spooked. When they enter the pool alone, they are easy prey. They see disturbing images and are attacked. Everyday life becomes a constant battle, as evil consumes Ray.

Director Bryce McGuire wrote the screenplay, based on a short film he made with Rod Blackhurst. Night Swim is genuinely spooky and intriguing until the third act, when it goes over the top. I found myself invested in the plot line and in the family looking to start a new life. All the ingredients are in place and then the jump scares happen – slowly but surely. All good to this point. While there are twists along the way, the narrative takes a wild bend after Eve takes matters into her own hands. That’s when the filmmakers decided to throw the kitchen sink at Night Swim and it all becomes preposterous. More restraint could have maintained the level of credibility that had marked the film to that juncture, but that is not how it plays out.

Kerry Condon is compelling as the mother looking for stability. Wyatt Russell’s uncertainty and ungainliness are understandable. The sibling dynamic is familiar.

After Night Swim, I might think twice before next dipping my toes into a backyard pool … or any body of water for that matter.

Alex First

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