Blumhouse has become a successful production company through a simple formula. Find fresh new talent, give them a relatively low budget ($10–$15 million), and let them make the film they want without much interference. Even if these moves don’t take off, the studio breaks even at the very least. But repeatedly, Blumhouse produces many of the best horror films in any given year. Often, these new directors are creating a feature-length version of one of their short films. Mike Flannagan’s “Oculus” is a great example of this. “Night Swim” follows this pattern, recreating the 2007 short of the same name by co-writers and directors Bryce McGuire and Rod Blackhurst.
The story centers around a family of four who are looking to start a new life together after the father, Ray (Wyatt Russell), retires from the MLB due to a medical condition. When his doctor suggests daily water therapy, Ray and his wife, Eve (Kerry Condon), find a house with a large pool. Ray still dreams of returning to baseball, but Eve and their two kids, Izzy(Amélie Hoeferle) and Elliot (Amélie Hoeferle), are excited to spend more time together as a family. Life seems pretty good, except this particular pool is excessively haunted.
Centering an entire feature film on a single haunted swimming pool sounds a little silly at first. Why not just leave? Don’t go in the water? Drain the pool? Is swimming during the day safe? The script does a great job of addressing all of the obvious questions. In fact, the majority of the script is very well written. The discussions between Eve and Ray seem like real conversations two people in this scenario would have. The dynamics of this family feel real, and we care about these characters. That always helps raise the stakes in horror movies.
Unfortunately, right around the third act, the movie begins to drag. It falls into the same “discovery montage” we often see. A main character searches for answers via Google or the local library, they track down victims from the past, drive out to see them, and learn what is really going on. This exposition always happens at the worst possible moment, right as climactic horror scenes kick-off. The segment drags on far too long, making the 98-minute movie feel about 20 minutes longer than it is. Coupled with some terrible villain dialog, it makes for a disappointing end to the movie.
On the positive side, there is still a lot in “Night Swim” to enjoy. The variety of cool, creepy, clever, and unique underwater shots is impressive, proving again that limitations can boost creativity. The soundtrack also deserves special note, as it’s one of the creepiest ones I’ve experienced. Just the music alone is enough to elicit chills.