Night Swim (2024)

It’s always good to see an indie success story and Bryce McGuire’s is the latest. After delivering the pretty creepy short “Night Swim” in 2014, McGuire was able to develop it in to a feature film and, ironically, mid-way through it I found myself thinking “This would work better as a short.” I wasn’t trying for sarcasm, it’s just that “Night Swim” presents only a seed of a potentially scary horror film that never actually feels fully fleshed out or extensively realized. Its penchant for ambiguity is its big downfall as it’s a victim to so many of the typical haunted house tropes, banal fake outs, and clumsy ghost scares, without ever trying to re-invent the wheel.

Forced into early retirement by a degenerative illness, former baseball player Ray Waller moves into a new house with his wife and two children. He hopes that the backyard swimming pool will be fun for the kids and provide physical therapy for himself. However, a dark secret from the home’s past soon unleashes a malevolent force that drags the family into the depths of inescapable terror.

The opening for “Night Swim” is pretty much a remake of the original short film, and then sets the stage for what is inevitably “Amityville: Poolside.” I was wholly optimistic about “Night Swim” and even felt that the premise presented so many opportunities for big jumps. Sadly, though, McGuire utilizes the pool very scarcely to the point where you wonder why the pool is considered villainous at all. Despite a pair of encounters and central protagonists Elliot and Izzy, as well we a doomed housecat, “Night Swim” is bone dry in regards to body count, chaotic scenarios, and even mythology.

I like where Bryce McGuire is going terms of what he envisions for this pool, but the more you think on it, the more the whole idea becomes a real stretch of logic and believability. So they never condemned this pool or noticed the high body count before? No family before it sought to destroy the pool or demolish it? If the pool is covered or built over, does the powers still reside within it? Can the ghosts go beyond the threshold of the pool? Are the past victims stuck in the pool in some dark dimension? Is the pool a part of an ancient spring or a well? Do you need to swim in the water to get the wish or just make the wish?

If anything I did like the central characters a great deal, and though Wyatt Russell was fine enough in his role. “Night Swim” is just a huge missed opportunity that works hard to retrofit its simple concept in to a ninety minute horror movie and never quite sticks the landing. I can see it more as late night fodder on basic cable than an outright horror classic. I’ll probably never see it again, but I hope we can see what Bryce McGuire can offer us in terms of scares, and ideas down the road.