Night Swim (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Dennis Seuling
  • Review Date: Jul 10, 2024
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Night Swim (Blu-ray Review)


Bryce McGuire

Release Date(s)

2024 (April 9, 2024)


Blumhouse Productions/Atomic Monster (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: C
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: B

Night Swim (Blu-ray)

Buy it Here!


Horror films have been popular with audiences ever since the days of silent movies. Vampires, ghosts, werewolves, demons, supernatural occurrences, aliens, and true life incidents have been the bases of movies too numerous to mention. But the first, and probably the last, film to deal with an evil swimming pool is Night Swim.

Ray Waller (Wyatt Russell, Jump Street), has developed an early stage of multiple sclerosis and is afraid to face the fact that his days as a major league baseball player are over. His wife, Eve (Kerry Condon, Angela’s Ashes), has coordinated moves between cities to take advantage of the latest treatments. After Ray accidentally slips into a pool at a home showing, he envisions himself as a sports legend. Since his doctor did recommend a pool for him to do exercises, he wastes little time in purchasing the house and he, Eve, and their two kids, Elliot (Gavin Warren) and Izzy (Amelie Hoeferle), move in.

The two children are the first to notice that something is “wrong” with the pool when they experience disturbing incidents in it. The family then learns that the pool has a creepy history.

A prologue had already taken us back to a night in 1992, when young Rebecca Summers (Ayazhan Dalabayeva) sees her ailing brother’s toy boat in the pool and wants to retrieve it for him. Perched on the edge of the pool, she loses her balance and falls in. Underwater, she sees a vision of her mother reaching out with a helping hand. Lights begin to flicker. When the boat resurfaces, she grabs for it, and disappears.

Ray finds the pool therapeutic. After only a few swims, his degenerative disease seems to have disappeared and he’s ecstatic. Eve and the kids, however, have scary visions, hear voices, and get dragged around the pool by an unknown entity. As time passes, Ray begins to act very odd. At this point, Eve—the only one in the family with common sense—wants to get the family out of that house, but the weak script insists that they stay long enough for more eerie and violent moments to occur.

Night Swim undermines itself with a PG-13 rating, which prevents it from ramping up intensity to make the film a real scare fest. The so-called frights are akin to someone stepping behind you and yelling “Boo”—momentarily startling, but far from creating a feeling of dread. Director Bryce McGuire based this film on a short by himself and Rod Blackhurst. At under four minutes, the short managed to sustain a mood, but at over 90 minutes, the feature loses a lot of energy along the way and resorts to cliche after cliche.

The overall problem is the concept. We tend to think of a pool as a place of enjoyment and fun, not lurking horror. Filming at night doesn’t help much, since the pool always comes off looking inviting, not forbidding. In the short, the pool was near a run-down motel, which made the location seem sinister. With the pool next to a large, luxurious home, the same strangeness doesn’t carry over.

Another misstep is emphasizing the scary dad angle, seen to far better effect in films like The Shining and Frailty. Director McGuire develops so many tendrils and that he loses focus on the main story. It often seems he himself is unsure of what the film is about.

Night Swim was captured digitally by director of photography Charlie Sarnoff in the ARRIRAW (4.6K) format with Arri Alexa 35 cameras and Cooke S4 lenses—a process that retains the camera’s natural color response and great exposure latitude. Everything was finished as a 4K Digital Intermediate in the aspect ratio of 2.39:1. On the Blu-ray from Universal Pictures, clarity and contrast are excellent, particularly in the many night scenes which retain detail. Details are well delineated in ripples in the pool, the creepy toy boat, Condon’s hair bobbing underwater, and patterns on clothing. Color palette tends toward blues, greens, and teals—the colors of water. Some shots view the subject from both above the water’s surface and below. The details of a Bloated Man and Bony Woman are beautifully rendered but, unfortunately, are shown only in glimpses in the film.

The soundtrack is English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. English SDH subtitles are an available option. Dialogue is clear and distinct. Sound is used primarily to create a sense of unease. Splashing, gurgling, swirling water and childish voices break the silence of the night to create an unsettling feeling. Other sound effects include footsteps, windshield wipers, and a car engine. In-pool struggles combine thrashing, screaming, and gasping for air. The score by Mark Korven is uninspired and fails to enhance the film’s suspenseful moments.

The 2-Disc Collector’s Edition from Universal contains a Blu-ray, a DVD, and a Digital Code on a paper insert. Bonus materials include the following:

  • Audio Commentary with Bryce McGuire
  • Masters of Fear (6:45)
  • Demons from the Depths (7:16)
  • Into the Deep (5:50)
  • Marco Polo (4:04)

Audio Commentary – Director Bryce McGuire, seeing the Universal logo that opens the film, is reminded of the many classic horror films from the studio that inspired him, particularly The Invisible Man and Creature From the Black Lagoon. The “cold opening”—the prologue that takes place in 1992—took three days to shoot from storyboards. The sequence felt like a graphic novel coming to life. The opening credits, which contain a shimmering effect, were shot in camera without benefit of CGI. McGuire goes into detail about several special effects shots and how they were accomplished. Water is a consistent image throughout the film, even when scenes are not set at the pool. A number of shots are from the pool’s point of view. The pool in the film is very large and dates to before World War II. In a nod to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Ray receives a “siren’s call” drawing him away from his family. McGuire notes, “You have to acknowledge the absurd premise” and the film’s Faustian elements. Everyone in the cast had to pass a rigorous swim assessment, which included being able to swim the length of the pool, open eyes underwater, and hold breath for 40 seconds. This safety measure was put in place to avoid the danger of actors struggling during scenes shot in the pool. Early scenes set the geography of the backyard. McGuire wanted the pool to feel unsuspicious. Producer James Wan’s instincts were helpful, and he never tried to overshadow McGuire’s authority. The film has a bittersweet conclusion, so McGuire decided to accompany the end credits with the upbeat song Deeper. The commentary concludes with McGuire saying that the “movie was made with soul and love.”

Masters of Fear – In this behind-the-scenes making-of featurette, actors Wyatt Russell and Kerry Condon, director Bryce McGuire, producer James Wan and other crew members discuss the origins of Night Swim and the difficulties of underwater filming.

Demons from the Depths – As a child, director Bryce McGuire loved the film Creature from the Black Lagoon. Entities live in the pool and haunt the Waller family. The film has the vibe of a 1970s horror film—something out there is lurking. Special effects, make-up, stand the various water-ravaged creatures are shown. “Bloated Man,” in particular, is an amazing suit-and-mask costume that has to hold up in water. Safety precautions in the pool are discussed. The creatures are seen in greater detail in this short than they’re in the film, allowing us to fully appreciate the painstaking work of the artistic creators.

Into the Deep – The filmmakers discuss the “wishing well” theme. The pool gives life but also takes life away. The script turns a fun activity into something frightening. The underwater scenes required a great deal of teamwork. Actor Kerry Condon was an accomplished swimmer, which made the director’s job easier since Condon spends a lot of screen time in the water. The pool was heated to 95 degrees but as the day wore on, the water would cool. Careful planning was essential to make sure every aspect of filming went smoothly.

Marco Polo – Marco Polo is a children’s game. The player who’s “it” must, with eyes closed, try to tag any one of the other players, relying on hearing to find someone to tag. The player who’s “it” shouts “Marco” and the other players must all respond by shouting “Polo,” which the “it” player uses to try to find them. According to director Bryce McGuire, “We want people to look at their pool in a different light.” Marco Polo worked perfectly for a horror film, as an innocent game turns into a source of suspenseful uncertainty. This scene was a key set piece of Night Swim.

Night Swim fails to play by its own rules. There’s nothing wrong with creating a set of rules in a horror film, however fantastic they may be. But it’s the responsibility of the script and the director to follow those rules. Night Swim is like a haphazard patchwork quilt—individual moments are interesting, even chilling, but what do they all add up to? Rather than build steadily to a climax, the film meanders and often seems to lose its way. With countless horror films to choose from, there’s no reason to put this one on your “must see” list.

- Dennis Seuling