When it comes to January releases, expectations for thrilling movies are usually low. Blumhouse Productions, known for its snazzy films, broke the mold last year with M3GAN, a witty and shivery robot-killer-doll scenario that had something to say about AI. Fast forward to this year, and Blumhouse's latest production, Night Swim, seems to restore the order of typical early-January movies - tepid and unscary.
A Haunted Pool and Random Ghostly Encounters
Night Swim revolves around a family that moves into a house with a haunted swimming pool. The film tries to capture the essence of classic horror films like the Amityville Horror series but ultimately falls flat. The ghostly encounters in the movie, including a ghost backstory, oozing greenish-brown sludge from the drain, moving toys, and glimpses of ominous figures by the pool, feel random and second-hand. The lack of originality and reliance on cliches make the film less engaging and more reminiscent of the Amityville franchise.
Missed Potential: From College Pool Party to Family Horror
The title Night Swim suggests a heightened sensual atmosphere, evoking images of a thrilling college pool party. However, instead of delivering on this potential, the movie takes a different direction and becomes a family horror film. The decision to focus on the Waller family and their personal struggles may have been an attempt to create psychological tension. However, the execution falls short, and the film fails to immerse the audience in its terror. The PG-13 rating also hinders the ability to create genuine fear, leaving viewers wanting more.
The Wallers: A Family Dealing with Trauma
The Waller family serves as the central characters in Night Swim. Ray Waller, portrayed by Wyatt Russell, is a professional baseball star whose career is cut short due to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. While Ray tries to maintain a positive outlook and see his condition as an opportunity to put down roots, his wife Eve, played by Kerry Condon, struggles with the emotional impact of their situation. The film attempts to explore the dynamics of the family and the challenges they face, but ultimately fails to capitalize on the potential for psychological tension.
Water Therapy and Miraculous Recovery
To help with his muscle strength, Ray's doctor recommends water therapy. The swimming pool in their new house proves to be more effective than anyone anticipated. Submerged in the pool, Ray experiences a miraculous recovery, regaining his strength. However, there is a downside to this newfound vitality, as the pool seems to have a malevolent side. As the catchphrase of the film suggests, Love requires sacrifice. The story takes a supernatural turn, introducing the ghost of a girl named Rebecca, whose presence in the pool adds another layer to the horror.
The Arbitrary Nature of Ghost Stories
Ghost stories often involve a variety of supernatural manifestations, and Night Swim is no exception. However, unlike films such as the Conjuring series, which manage to create a sinister energy through their arbitrary supernatural elements, Night Swim falls short. The movie lacks the tension and genuine fear that can make supernatural encounters compelling. The predictable and derivative nature of the scares leaves the audience underwhelmed and craving a more immersive experience.
A Missed Opportunity for Genuine Terror
Last year's Skinamarink showcased how a shoestring-budget haunted-house film can still deliver genuine scares. Through its innovative use of grainy sights and sounds, it managed to get under the audience's skin. Unfortunately, Night Swim fails to achieve a similar level of fear. The film's fear factor is all wet, with telegraphed scares and predictable plot developments. Director Bryce McGuire's attempts to draw inspiration from thrillers like Ringu fall short, leaving the audience longing for a more immersive and genuinely terrifying experience.
Night Swim may have had the potential to deliver a chilling and suspenseful horror movie experience, but it falls short in several aspects. The random and second-hand nature of the ghostly encounters, the shift from a college pool party setting to a family-focused storyline, and the lack of genuine scares all contribute to a tepid and unscary film. While the premise of a haunted swimming pool holds promise, the execution fails to immerse viewers in the terror. Night Swim ultimately leaves audiences disappointed and longing for a more thrilling cinematic experience.