‘Night Swim’ Review – Another Horror Film Drowning In Tired Contrivances

Eve Waller (Kerry Condon) realizes she is far from the surface in Night Swim (2023), Blumhouse
Eve Waller (Kerry Condon) realizes she is far from the surface in Night Swim (2023), Blumhouse

It’s January and you know what that means: this is the season when releases studios don’t believe in go to die. Occasionally, too, there are ones that buck that trend – such as last year’s M3GAN which proved to be a surprise in a few ways. Box office numbers and meme-worthiness top the shortlist of criteria.

Dead Pool, Night swim
Ray (Wyatt Russell) and his wife (Kerry Condon) look at the pool in Night Swim (2024), Blumhouse

Night Swim is similarly a surprise as far as the numbers it is pulling in, but not when it comes to the effort put into it.

The plot centers around baseball player Ray Waller (Wyatt Russell) looking to get his life and career back on track after he is stricken with MS. Moving his family to the ‘burbs, they find a house with an abandoned fixer-upper pool in the back. 

The place is a steal because (you guessed it) a little girl drowned there 30 years ago. Nobody tells the Waller family this, of course, and they go ahead with opening that thing back up for block parties. Little do they know, ghouls and ghosts have an invitation.

Even before it hit theaters, Night Swim was garnering comparisons to the Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode “The Tale of Dead Man’s Float” due to their shared subject matter.

While newcomer Bryce McGuire lifts some tropes from that spooky Nickelodeon anthology, the film displays more influences than memorable Millennial television. I thought of Western remakes of J-Horror right away, especially the paltry ones like Dark Water and One Missed Call.

Those, as with many attempts to capture lightning in a bottle after The Ring, fell flat as they weren’t awfully concerned with shocking or resonating with anyone the way their inspirations did. That’s one of my faults with McGuire’s first attempt at distilling his chosen tropes here; it’s straight-up bland.

Wyatt Russell takes a ride before a Night Swim
Ray Waller (Wyatt Russell) pulls up to his new house in Night Swim (2024), Blumhouse

For a lot of movie buffs and cinema snobs, being bland or boring is the cardinal sin of any movie, but particularly the offerings you don’t expect much out of except how bad they can be.

The other flaw I found was the film was too uneven. It tried to be moody and bleak but overall wasn’t. Night Swim is way too bright to be bleak as most of it takes place during the day – which is oddly incongruous given the title they went with.

In the deep-Night Swim
Izzy (Amelie Hoeferle) underwater in Night Swim (2024), Blumhouse

I can’t think of a brighter, more well-lit horror film, and I question the wisdom of anything in the genre that shows a mom and her kids jumping in the pool in slow motion – big smiles on their faces – to the tune of Judas Priest. In another pivotal montage, the camera lingers on a plump hot dog drenched in ketchup.

Something else that struck me is that, when I went to see this in the evening, the target demo of teens showed up with friends and dates, and the weirdest thing happened – nothing. It was quiet. I don’t remember one scream or jump or laughter or so much as a giggle at anything on the screen 

A boy, a girl, and a pool-Night Swim
Izzy (Amelie Hoeferle) and Ronin (Elijah Roberts) go for a dip with ghosts about in Night Swim (2024), Blumhouse

The desired audience was there, but they weren’t being served as far as I could tell. Everything was simply ‘meh.’ In all, Night Swim is no M3GAN, Smile, or It Follows. It’s no Ghost Shark either, but going that route might have saved it.

NEXT: ‘Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom’ Review – A Burial At Sea For The DCEU

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