A Generic But Enjoyable Haunted Pool Movie

REVIEWS

“Night Swim” begins with a cold open set in the early ’90s, in which a young girl, after checking on her terminally ill brother, is attempting to save a toy of his left behind in their backyard pool when she’s menaced (and abducted — or worse) by some spectral ghouls. Flashing forward some 30-odd years, we’re introduced to the Waller family: mother Eve (Kerry Condon), teenage daughter Izzy (Amélie Hoeferle), younger son Elliot (Gavin Warren), and the patriarch, Ray (Wyatt Russell). Due to Ray’s major league baseball career, the Wallers have had to move around a lot, with the strain of an absentee husband and father (not to mention Elliot and Izzy having to make new friends over and over) becoming nearly too much to bear. Now that Ray has come down with a degenerative illness and has been forced into retiring from pro ball, the Wallers are in the market to try and finally settle down.

Not so fast, horror protagonists: Ray has yet to come to terms with the encroaching reality that he’ll never play ball again, and decides to eschew a living situation that would help his healthcare in favor of a cozy two-story home in the suburbs, complete with swimming pool. Ray accidentally falls in the pool while inspecting it, and has a vision of himself playing baseball at full strength. That clinches it: the Wallers move in, Ray’s health magically begins improving, and he becomes convinced that some hydrotherapy is all he needed to get better.

Sure enough, the external perfection of the Waller’s summer in their new home soon gives way to deeper, deadlier issues beneath the surface. Not only do the spectral terrors begin to menace the rest of the Waller family and their friends, but Ray’s recovery appears to sour, as he begins to exhibit a murderous attitude toward anyone seeking to separate him and his precious pool.

While the idea of a killer swimming pool is nearing a “Death Bed” and “The Lift”-level of intentional camp, McGuire, his co-writer Rod Blackhurst, and his cast play things straight, drawing inspiration primarily from the classics “The Amityville Horror” and “Poltergeist” with their real-estate woes and dangerous suburban environments. McGuire also borrows liberally from the playbook of James Wan (who is not coincidentally a producer on the film), messing with the audience’s sense of timing with his peek-a-boo terrors (there’s even an ominous game of Marco Polo, recalling the first “The Conjuring” and its clapping game). As such, there’s not much new going on here, and even though it all works fine, the first half of the film is too generic to be called inspired.

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