From the first moment I saw trailers of “Night Swim”, I was intrigued. The concept that the horror revolves around a swimming pool was interesting, especially since for a lot of people, like myself, a swimming pool equates with summer fun, not fear. But in this film, it taps into primal fears of drowning, portals, and children in danger. The acting in the film is nuanced and evocative and the suspense is slowly built until you are on the edge of your seat watching in terror.
“Night Swim” is a 2024 American supernatural horror film written and directed by Bryce McGuire (in his feature directorial debut), and based on the 2014 short film of the same name by McGuire and Rod Blackhurst. In the film, Ray Waller (Wyatt Russell), an ex-baseball player is diagnosed with MS and is struggling with his diagnosis. He and his family, wife Eve (Kerry Condon), daughter Izzy (Amélie Hoeferle) and son Elliot (Gavin Warren) are looking for a home to rent but find a home to buy instead, one with a swimming pool that is in disrepair. They fix up the pool but after they do, strange things begin happening, like their household cat Cider disappearing and a cut on Ray’s hand mysteriously healing. Ray thrives, his disease improving but the family soon finds out the pool isn’t what they think it is and there is a price to pay for Ray’s health, one that the family might find itself paying.
One of the best features of this film is the masterful building of suspense and horror. The film starts out very simply but as the story unfolds, the tiny details add to the creepy and frightening atmosphere until you are on the edge of your seat, terrified. The small details and the prologue helped set up the aura of supernatural mystery surrounding the pool and kept me guessing about what was going to come next. And when we finally got a look at the monster, it made me scream and jump in fright. It taps into primal fears about water and drowning. It also evokes childhood fears of children falling into pools.
The water effects are supremely good. There are moments when the water, even in glasses, does not act as you would expect and those tiny details add to the fear. There is one scene that uses the drain in a way that evokes portals, IT, and a child’s fear of getting a hand stuck in the drain. When any individual is pulled into the depths, there are scenes that show almost a portal like effect and just adds to the supernatural elements. I also like the addition of those supernatural ideas and concepts, especially the idea of wishing wells, magical springs, and the idea of magic coming at a price. The idea of the water being awake and aware also is a terrifying concept.
The acting is nuanced and evocative. Wyatt Russell gives us an excellent performance as a father who has not entirely been present in his children’s lives but wants to be better. He shows small changes that add to the effects of the film and make us see how impacted he is by the water in the pool. It is a nuanced performance that adds to the horror. Kerry Condon is heart wrenching as Eve as she slowly puts the pieces together about the pool and what it is doing to her and her family. Her performance touches deftly on fears of drowning and swimming. Both Amélie Hoeferle and Gavin Warren as Izzy and Elliot are believable and authentic as they realize the danger they’re in from the swimming pool. All of the performances are phenomenal and add to the suspense of the horror effects.
One of the small issues I had with the film was purely from a knowledge of swimming pools that pulled me out of the film at the beginning. The pool was badly damaged and there was no reference to basic repairs that would have been needed. I also was baffled by the lack of a fence around the pool as most communities require it. It didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the film or my fear. I also found the development of the characters lacking and the story a slow build. While that did help build the horror, the film could have used a longer length to add to the characters and not have such a shortened ending. Even though the film terrified me, a little more development would have made it even more frightening. I also would have liked more delving into the past of the house and the pool.
If you like really suspenseful, supernatural horror, you will love this film, though. It is a masterful build of horror elements, terrifying and creepy all at once. It taps into primal fears, making me terrified of a game I played as a child and evoking fears of drowning. The acting was stellar, Wyatt Russell demonstrating a skill equal to his famous mother and father. Kerry Condon was his equal. The film was freaking scary, with a couple jump scares that made me scream so if you like horror, this is perfect for you, despite the lack of development on the characters and a rushed ending. This is a terrifying beginning to 2024.
4 out of 5 swims