Horror buff and writer/director Bryce McGuire gets in the full-length feature game with Night Swim, another in a long line of movies where families move to some unassuming house only to find out it’s on the corner of Ghost Street and Creepy Lane. You know the type—like 2012′s Sinister with Ethan Hawke—the ones where the mom or the dad or the kids start to experience evil shit, only they hang around for too long because: have you looked at the real estate market lately?
Wyatt Russell, from most excellent projects like Overlord and Lodge 49, plays the dad Ray Waller here, only he’s kind of too good for the role because Night Swim is so stupid. Waller, a former pro baseballer diagnosed with MS, buys a house with his family for its pool on doctor’s orders. The water therapy starts to work, too. As in, it starts to work a little too well, and even his kids (played by a couple of nameless goobers) and his wife (Kerry Condon of the also most excellent Banshees of Inisherin) are like, “It’s cool we bought this house!”
Then they start seeing ghosts all up in that pool. Then dear old dad starts acting weird and doing embarrassing things like trying to drown some kid at a pool party or thinking he can get back into baseball at some point despite his illness. What’s behind this weird pool-based behavior change? No spoilers, but it’s actually kind of inventive, or at least a semi-fun twist on an old kid’s story. Even so, Russell and Condon feel wasted here—what with all of Night Swim’s shallow dialogue (pun intended) and not-so-scary trappings. As always, jump scares might offer fleeting cheap thrills, but there’s being startled and there’s being scared. Night Swim doesn’t do either particularly well.
Pity that, as horror has so regularly proven an inventive and accessible genre. Cheese works, too, if it’s intended or if a filmmaker winds up in an Evil Dead 1 situation wherein they earnestly tried and still ended up with camp. Some films, though, like Night Swim, don’t feel scary enough or silly enough to have much of an identity at all. If we remember this one even a month or two from now, that will be the truly shocking outcome.
+Condon and Russell are fine actors
-You’ve seen it so, so many times before
Directed by McGuire
With Russell and Condon
Violet Crown, Regal, PG-13, 98 min.