Imagine for a second that feeling you got when swimming alone as a kid. Whether it was just dark and dreary, or you were swimming in a pool that some assclown had painted realistic sharks on the bottom of it (thanks for the childhood trauma), it’s a feeling of unease. That feeling of unease pervades throughout most of Night Swim. At this point, Blumhouse has a bit of a formula for their horror movies, particularly these “non-Halloween” releases. They follow a family facing some sort of challenge or trauma, and they get some sort of evil or supernatural way out of that trauma. Here, that means Ray Waller (Wyatt Russell) and his family found this miraculous house listing, and it even comes with a pool.

Ray is a former MLB baseball player (complete with ACTUAL MLB LICENSES) who has been diagnosed with MS. He and his family, Eve (Kerry Condon), Izzy (Amelie Hoeferle), and Elliot (Gavin Warren) face challenges as he tries to make his way back to the MLB. They’ve moved around plenty of times due to him being traded in his baseball career, but it finally looks like they’re settling down. The pool has somewhat magical qualities that are rapidly improving Ray’s condition, but strange goings-on happens around the family pool.

For a movie based on a short film, this expansion of the story kind of fits. It does make for a strange message, particularly with the main theme of love being, or not being, a sacrifice at points, but it works for the most part. But you’re really not here to hear about the various themes throughout Night Swim. It’s a horror movie in January. You’re here to see if it’s scary or not.

Well, Is Night Swim Scary Or Not?

Amelie Hoeferle in Night Swim
Image Courtesy Of: Blumhouse/Universal

For the most part, yes. Night Swim does a pretty damn good job of ramping up tension and making you feel a tremendous sense of dread. Whether it’s a glass sliding slowly off a counter, or just the various spirits/specters of the pool appearing in the background, the movie knows how to scare. And it does so without heavy use of jump scares. It instead lets you build up the tension of a scene in your head and then hits you when you least expect it. It’s those moments that make Night Swim well worth a watch. However, there are some glaring issues with the pacing of the film, especially with the scares.

Normally, I’d say that any movie with a Judas Priest needle drop and baseball would be the one for me. However, this one has a couple too many baseball scenes. One shows how Ray is improving physically, but it plays it off for laughs and feels slightly silly. That silliness pervades through the film and makes for some moments of levity, but it also makes for an uneven tone. There are also some particularly bad line reads, especially in the latter stages of the film in a pivotal emotional moment. When the audience is laughing instead of feeling for the characters in the climax of your film, you could have done a different take. Now, this is a movie about a killer swimming pool, so it’s hard to think too much about the logic and line reads.

Finally, the scenes in what I’m going to call the negative pool world, are frightening and some of the scariest of the entire film. My only gripe is that the actual monsters look a bit silly. Some of them are quite terrifying, but there’s one that just looks like a big grey blob. For quick glances, it’s scary, but when they show it more and more, it looks sillier and sillier.

You’re Sitting Down To Watch A Movie About A Killer Swimming Pool, Don’t Take It Too Seriously

Wyatt Russell in Night Swim
Image Courtesy of: Blumhouse/Universal

Night Swim is really just a bit of fun at the movies. It’s not a super special horror movie, but one that’ll give you a good time at the movies with a crowd. Wyatt Russell is as personable and charismatic as ever and it shows with his performance. The kids Izzy and Elliot also do an admirable job in being scared and bewildered by a killer pool. Kerry Condon’s natural accent slips in a bit in some scenes. However, her performance really drives the film. Jodi Long’s performance as Kay, is only in the film for a scene, but she absolutely smashes giving us the backstory on the evil pool/spring. Her scene is haunting and provides some of the best non-jumpy/tension scares in the film. She gives an incredibly creepy performance.

Bryce McGuire and his crew found ways to make a swimming pool scary. That’s a testament to their ability. Some of the water scenes are quite impressive, especially with actors holding their breath and whatnot.

So, really, if you’re in the mood for a January horror movie, Night Swim is it. It’s nothing super special, but it does the job of entertaining and frightening you.

Night Swim releases in theaters on January 5th, 2024.

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