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Review: Night Swim

As a new year begins, studios tend to drop a lot of action and horror films. So it comes as no surprise the first release of the year would be Blumhouse's Night Swim. While it is curious to release a film about a cursed family pool in the winter and not the summer, audiences shouldn't go into the film asking too many questions. One thing is very clear from the get-go here, director Bryce McGuire generally fears pools. For all the film's faults, McGuire does convey a deep-seeded phobia here.

I will keep the plot details sparse here in order to avoid any spoilers. Based on the acclaimed short film from 2014, Night Swim concerns Ray Waller (Wyatt Russell) and his family as the move into a new home. Ray was a major league baseball player who was forced into early retirement after an MS diagnosis. His wife Eve (Kerry Condon), teenage daughter Izzy (Amélie Hoeferie) and young son Elliot (Gavin Warren) join him as they move into what appears to be a too-good-to-be-true house. The only issue is that the natural spring pool in the backyard has a funny way of causing hallucinations and disappearances.

Ray is quick to embrace the pool as his condition appears to improve as he uses it for water therapy. He seems to be being healed by the pool as his family get terrorized by it. The how and why behind the pool is ridiculous and revealed with such lackluster, that you might miss it.

I like aquatic horror and McGuire has a keen eye early on for some great camera angles to maximize the uncomfortable feeling brought by being in water when alone, at night. His sense of style gives each of the film's scare setups a smooth polish. The trouble is that each of those setups repeats themselves. Once you see one scene of the demon pool, you have seen them all here. Night Swim struggles to evolve and raise the stakes as it goes on. The family drama isn't interesting enough to keep things moving, even with a brisk pace to the film.

Mixing parts of The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist and other haunted house films, Night Swim can't help but feel familiar. Stylistically it is distinct but the plot will be all too familiar for horror fans. Thematically, the film struggles to make a point about hope, wishes and sacrifice. Russell and Condon give fine performances here but their characters are underdeveloped and often commit the common horror sin of ignoring un-ignorable things.

Night Swim falls apart in its third act. The reveal of why the pool is the way it is favors convenience over impact. The rushed resolution attempts a big emotional swing but the film hasn't done the work along the way for it to have any impact. While there are some decent scare scenes scattered throughout the film, Night Swim is a frustrating watch due to its poorly written-script.

McQuire clearly has some talent, particularly when it comes to some slick camera moves and staging. However, this is his script and it is an incoherent mess at times. Rushed, disjointed, and ultimately laughable, the film's climax fails to leave an impression.



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