You never REALLY want to start from the bottom…
It’s the first new release weekend of the calendar year and sadly the invitation for us to go to the theatres for a Night Swim sinks to the bottom of the pool like it was weighted down with chains making the first major studio release to be a dull and lifeless affair that never gets out of the shallow end.
Secretly hoping, against the odds, to return to pro ball, Ray (Wyatt Russell) persuades Eve (Kerry Condon) that the new home’s shimmering backyard swimming pool will be fun for the kids and provide physical therapy for him. But a dark secret in the home’s past will unleash a malevolent force that will drag the family under, into the depths of inescapable terror.
Let’s keep it simple; Night Swim was a dull, lifeless and often ridiculous affair that proves that adapting a short film into a feature is a difficult task for any storyteller. When you add mediocre effects, poor writing and character development you get a movie that feels like it’s never actually seen or understands what a horror movie is supposed to be.
Based on a short of the same name, pushing out a 4 minute short into a 98 min feature is a daunting affair. While Writer/Director Bryce McGuire does at least try to give the film some visual style, the execution of it all is sloppy, awkward and forced as in many instances it looks like this relatively low budget Blumhouse release ran out of money as some of the visual effects reveals looked like something Wes Craven had to deal with on the set of the Swamp Thing.
Films that get released in 2024 shouldn’t look like they have visual effects that came out of 1982…unless that’s what they wanted, which makes you wonder if anyone on this one really knew what they were doing because having the lens of the camera just above the water level of the pool for half the movie never adds to the tension because we know that there’s nothing all that compelling lying underneath the surface.
The forced premise of a malevolent force in the pool just came off as goofy and ineffective without enough set up to have us actually buy into it all. To buy into a premise in a horror movie you need strong writing and well defined characters or they need to lean into the absurdity, sadly this film does neither.
When Wyatt Russell’s character is bolding proclaiming that “THE POOL IS THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME” we get lazy jump scares and predictable plot points as Condon fights with the pool cover that has a mind of its own rather than embracing more of a Snakes on a Plane mentality telling her family to get out of the “mother***ing pool”.
Ultimately, Night Swim is a soggy, telegraphed mess that never gets out of the shallow end.
You hate to see a movie drown in an inch of water, but Night Swim goes face down out of the gate and never comes up for air as it takes itself too seriously or veers into the silly at all the wrong times. We’re less than a week in to 2024, and the worst movie of the year might already be locked up.