“Jaws” made us afraid of the beach.
“Night Swim” wants to do the same for the deep end of your swimming pool.
The latest Blumhouse shocker delivers PG:13 thrills, the kind that can’t make us squirm in our seats. The upside? The film’s capable cast taps into real-world fears that go beyond the haunted pool.
And, at a tidy 98-minute running time, there’s little fat to be trimmed from this modest thriller.
Ray and Eve Waller (Wyatt Russell, Kerry Condon) just bought a new home with a swimming pool that hasn’t been used in years.
It’ll still come in handy. Ray, a former third basement for the Milwaukee Brewers, has early-stage MS and could use a daily dose of aqua therapy.
Their cute kids love to swim, too, but the pool’s lights flicker at night and strange images appear near the deck.
Is this pool haunted? It wouldn’t be a Blumhouse Production if it wasn’t.
“Night Swim” serves up an original spin on the haunted house genre, even if it cribs from “It’s” sewer grate sequence in the process. Also familiar? The expository “reveal” that kicks off the third act.
Still, the story boasts an internal logic that grounds the occasionally silly beats. Mostly. Plus, is this the best house a modern athlete can afford? What about those multi-million dollar contracts?
Russell and Condon make for a believable couple grappling with an illness that could change their family dynamic in profound ways. The screenplay provides welcome depth here, understanding how the health of one family member impacts everyone.
One interesting twist to the story? Ray’s symptoms fade shortly after buying their new home.
“Night Swim” celebrates the critical role fathers play in our lives without short-changing Condon’s character. The newly-christened Oscar nominee (“The Banshees of Iniserhin“) gets plenty of screen time and provides a nurturing maternal strength.
There’s not a whiff of woke to be found, which isn’t always the case with Blumhouse joints.
Writer/director Bryce McGuire knows his story won’t work if we aren’t invested in the Wallers, and he takes great care to ensure that happens early in the first act. His screenplay also delivers a few sly treats, like a real estate agent who can’t stop putting her foot in her mouth and a spaced-out pool tech.
McGuire cares more about establishing the family beats than their horror sequences, but when they arrive they’re framed for maximum unease. The FX load is light, but McGuire’s camera makes the most of every encounter.
(The film is based on a 2014 short film co-directed by McGuire and Rod Blackhurst)
A quick note: Amélie Hoeferle’s Izzy, the Waller’s oldest child, signs up with her school’s Christian swim team early in the film, in part because she’s crushing on one of the male swimmers. Given Hollywood’s tense relationship with faith, you expect a spiritual sucker punch is looming.
Nope. It’s treated as an ordinary part of her school experience, with her friends briefly teasing her after she kissed the boy in question.
That’s not scary. It’s refreshing.
HiT or Miss: “Night Swim” might make you giggle more than cry out in fright, but its attention to detail separates it from many horror romps.