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Movie Review: ‘Night Swim’ | Moviefone

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(from lower left) Izzy Waller (Amélie Hoeferle), Elliot Waller (Gavin Warren), Kay (Nancy Lenehan), Ray Waller (Wyatt Russell) and Eve Waller (Kerry Condon) in 'Night Swim,' directed by Bryce McGuire. © 2023 Universal Studios. All

(from lower left) Izzy Waller (Amélie Hoeferle), Elliot Waller (Gavin Warren), Kay (Nancy Lenehan), Ray Waller (Wyatt Russell) and Eve Waller (Kerry Condon) in ‘Night Swim,’ directed by Bryce McGuire. © 2023 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

In theaters on January 5th, ‘Night Swim’ is the latest product to roll off the Blumhouse production line (this time allied with James Wan’s Atomic Monster company, the first movie made under their merged entities).

And while the Blumhouse label has become a largely reliable one in the horror sphere, the new movie has a lot to live up to after a 2023 that brought us the entertaining likes of ‘M3GAN’ and the small screen’s ‘Totally Killer’.

Does ‘Night Swim’ float its premise?

Wyatt Russell as Ray Waller in 'Night Swim,' directed by Bryce McGuire.

Wyatt Russell as Ray Waller in ‘Night Swim,’ directed by Bryce McGuire. © 2023 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Unlike the more comedically-inflected Blumhouse offerings, ‘Night Swim’ initially seems straightforward –– you have your intriguing premise of a family moving into a home that boasts an empty swimming pool in its backyard that initially beckons with the promise of playtime fun and community cook-outs/swim parties. And that’s what draws in Ray Waller (Wyatt Russell), a baseball player suffering with the onset of Multiple Sclerosis and his wife and kids. He also thinks the pool could serve as backyard water therapy for his condition.

But before too long, they realize that under the surface lurks a terrible secret, one that stretches back to at least one previous owner of the place and promises to unleash terror for anyone who braves the liquid layers. ‘Night Swim’ initially feels like it might be a basic horror movie, but like the pool itself, there’s more lurking within, and the ultimate result swims more than it sinks.

‘Night Swim’: Script and Direction

Director Bryce McGuire on the set of 'Night Swim.'

Director Bryce McGuire on the set of ‘Night Swim.’ © 2023 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Writer/director Bryce McGuire originally concocted the idea of a dangerous pool for a short film he was hoping might open doors in Hollywood. Open them it did, and now here he’s expanding the short created alongside Rod Blackhurst (who worked on the story for the movie).

McGuire treads some unexpected waters, crafting a narrative that actually has a point beyond the basic “pool is full of evil spirits” that the trailers have suggested. There’s also a small line in knowing humor playing off of what is happening, while the later scenes have a good set of themes and ideas to explore, even if some of them don’t always work out the way the writer/director expected and might cause some audience eyes to roll when the characters look inti the pool’s history. It is, at least something different to the standard concept you expect with a movie such as this.

And on the directorial front, while some of the early scenes suggest a filmmaker trying out as many visual tricks as he can to goose the audience (to an occasionally annoying degree), that also settles down as things move along, the effects deployed well to keep you guessing whenever someone takes a dip.

McGuire has a good eye for a scare, but he’s not afraid to trust the story he has to work with, while showing a solid way with actors.

Related Article: Allison Williams Talks ‘M3GAN’ and working with director Gerard Johnstone

‘Night Swim’: Performances

(from left) Ray Waller (Wyatt Russell) and Eve Waller (Kerry Condon) in 'Night Swim,' directed by Bryce McGuire.

(from left) Ray Waller (Wyatt Russell) and Eve Waller (Kerry Condon) in ‘Night Swim,’ directed by Bryce McGuire. © 2023 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Wyatt Russell initially carries more of the character load as Ray Waller –– he’s a man battling his own personal health demons even as the pool both causes problems and comes to his aid. And he’s reliably watchable, making Ray a credible husband and father who is also dealing with a dangerous new situation.

But it soon becomes clear that Kerry Condon (Oscar nominated last year for ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’) who will be handling just as much in the movie as wife Eve. A school administrator who has to juggle her husband’s thwarted dreams, medical issues and raising their family, she’s a beacon of strength who quickly figures out that there’s something odd about the pool and dives into discovering exactly what.

Kids Izzy (Amélie Hoeferle) and Elliot (Gavin Warren) have less to do, but play their roles effectively, adding to the tension as they find the focus of their fun is a little less entertaining than they suspected at first. They’re also good at portraying the pressure of kids who have been dealing with moving around as their father is traded between teams and having to make new friends each time.

‘Night Swim’: Final Thoughts

(from left) Izzy Waller (Amélie Hoeferle), Elliot Waller (Gavin Warren), Ray Waller (Wyatt Russell) and Eve Waller (Kerry Condon) in 'Night Swim,' written and directed by Bryce McGuire.

(from left) Izzy Waller (Amélie Hoeferle), Elliot Waller (Gavin Warren), Ray Waller (Wyatt Russell) and Eve Waller (Kerry Condon) in ‘Night Swim,’ written and directed by Bryce McGuire. © 2023 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

‘Night Swim’ might not quite be up there with the best that Blumhouse has to offer, but it’s certainly a decent horror movie that has more on its mind that simple scares. Quite what that is we’ll lead you to discover for yourself, but there’s good character work and more than one decent shock to be found floating around here.

It also becomes a meditation on both addiction and possession, revealing more that the premise might suggest, while suggest. If you like your horror movie with a few extra layers, then ‘Night Swim’ could be one to jump into.

It’s a smart move to keep programming movies such as this in the empty, chilly January months where there is less competition, and the focus is on awards movies over genre. And just when you thought it was safe to go back in water that Jaws can’t live in… think again.

‘Night Swim’ receives 7.5 out of 10 stars.

What’s the story of ‘Night Swim’?

‘Night Swim’ stars Wyatt Russell as Ray Waller, a former major league baseball player forced into early retirement by a degenerative illness, who moves into a new home with his concerned wife Eve (Kerry Condon), teenage daughter Izzy (Amélie Hoeferle) and young son Elliot (Gavin Warren).

Secretly hoping, against the odds, to return to pro ball, Ray persuades Eve that the new home’s shimmering backyard swimming pool will be fun for the kids and provide physical therapy for him. But a dark secret in the home’s past will unleash a malevolent force that will drag the family under, into the depths of inescapable terror.

Who else is in ‘Night Swim’?

The cast for this new Blumhouse thriller also includes Nancy Lenehan, Ben Sinclair and Jodi Long.

Wyatt Russell as Ray Waller in 'Night Swim,' directed by Bryce McGuire.

Wyatt Russell as Ray Waller in ‘Night Swim,’ directed by Bryce McGuire. © 2023 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Other Blumhouse Movies:

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