I tend to usually have faith in Blumhouse Studio's ability to deliver a decent horror flick, but I can also say that they're not always home runs. One such example is this year's otherwise intriguing (to me, anyway) 'Night Swim,' coming to us from writer/director Bryce McGuire, who presented this concept originally as a better, much creepier short, running just about four minutes long and, while still not wondrous, having a better effect than this film as a whole. So I'm just gonna say that off the bat - the short is more entertaining for me.
What drew me in with this was the idea that I'm not sure I've ever seen a horror movie use a swimming pool as its "monster," so to speak. I'm sure it has happened somewhere, but short of Freddy Krueger using a public pool in 'Dream Child,' I'm hard-pressed to think of anything to use as their main source of whatever curse or haunting this is. I'm still unsure, as the film does a lame job explaining things. Either way, I saw some originality and considered it a cool idea to scare those swimmers who could still feel safe from "Jaws" in a swimming pool. It was a new thing for people to fear, and I wanted to see how things played out.
So we open in 1992 with what is essentially the film trying to be 'It,' when a little girl named Rebecca (Ayazhan Dalabayeva) tries to get her sick brother's toy boat out of the family pool when a mysterious force yanks her in. Fast-forward to the present day, and we get to the Waller family, looking for a more permanent place to live after the father, Ray (Wyatt Russell) is forced to retire from professional baseball due to multiple sclerosis. When water therapy is recommended as part of his therapy, Ray expresses a desire to move into a specific house the family checked out with a pool - the same pool in which Rebecca drowned in 1992.
While the water therapy seems to do wonders for Ray, his wife, Eve (Kerry Condon), begins to get concerned over her husband's often odd behaviour, and their kids, Izzy (Amélie Hoeferle) and Elliot (Gavin Warren), begin seeing and experiencing weird things in the pool when they go swimming. As far as anything else goes, one can just take this as a much weaker version of 'The Shining' or 'Amityville Horror' in which the father is empowered by bad things, and the family has to survive to the end. Yeah... without meaning to spoil anything, we've just seen this done before and done better.
As far as the pool and its weird haunts go, it is eventually half-explained. While Rebecca's drowning takes a bit of a front seat, there's also something more seemingly demonic going on there, and the best answer we get is that the pool was built over a natural spring. It goes from that to something like, "Who knows what things were built over?" and that's what we get. It's cool to use one's imagination to fill in the blanks, and I don't always wanna be spoon-fed, but the explanation here felt incredibly lazy. We just get what the pool does instead of why it does it.
I will be fair and say that I could have missed a subtle detail that suggests something like "ancient burial ground." But even if so, it's subtle enough to easily be missed. It ends up being a movie about choice and sacrifice. But, again, it's been done before and better. The one thing I'd say this movie has going for it is that I do find the concept of a cursed and/or haunted swimming pool original enough to give it just a little tiny bit of credit. The thing is, they failed to execute it very well, having about 90% of the suspense involve reaching for something in the pool from poolside, creating such predictability it's ridiculous.
It's hard to get hyped for movies of this type when they're released in January or February, but as I said, Blumhouse often does a good job, so it's always a roll of the dice for them. For example, I really enjoyed last year's 'M3GAN', but at the same time, 'Five Nights at Freddy's' was quite lame. You never know with this studio, but unfortunately, this was one time they didn't exactly blow the competition out of the water. It may have a moment or two of mild horror, but I wouldn't highly recommend it until you check out the short first. Then if you don't like the short, simply do not bother!