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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

‘Night Swim’ Needs to be Filtered Out of Existence

Illustration by Claire Min/The Hoya

Sigh. Well, this is it folks, the bottom of the barrel. Blumhouse, headed by Jason Blum, has been approaching pure, unadulterated terribleness for a good few years now (see: “The Exorcist: Believer,” “Halloween Ends” or any of the “Annabelle” films), but they’ve finally outdone themselves with “Night Swim,” director Bryce McGuire’s latest feature to hit the big screens. 

The premise should be red flag enough, with the movie following the Waller Family — Ray (Wyatt Russell), Eve (Kerry Condon), Izzy (Amélie Hoeferle) and Elliot (Gavin Warren) as they (a) move into a new home and (b) discover that the house’s pool holds sinister depths. 

In a weird, water-based perversion of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Color Out of Space,” it turns out that the Waller family’s chlorinated piscina draws upon the mystical power of an ancient natural spring — power that both heals all ails and (wouldn’t you know it) compels its user to offer up a human sacrifice. Needless to say, carnage — of a tepid, stagnant sort — ensues. 

That’s all. Seriously. 

Perhaps “Night Swim” was meant as a sort of meme-movie — à la 2023’s “Cocaine Bear” — but given its trailers’ serious tone and the largely straightfaced marketing surrounding the film’s release, this seems unlikely. As a result, any possible redeeming features (e.g., the potential for cringe horror-comedy or quotable lines) are absent, leaving us only with a steaming pile of pond scum. 

Outside of the plot’s obvious shortcomings, the film offers little in the way of performance. Wyatt Russell hams it up, but given “Night Swim’s” largely earnest tone, his efforts fall flat. Meanwhile, Kerry Condon can hardly be bothered in most of her scenes, throwing a wet blanket on any campy fun that Russell might have otherwise brought to the party. I won’t rag too much on Hoeferle and Warren, given their relative youth; but, needless to say, they don’t exactly set the stage alight — granted, they are severely limited by screenwriter Bryce McGuire’s lackluster script. 

It’s a low bar, but “Night Swim’s” cinematography is also far from outstanding when compared with Blumhouse’s other horror flicks. Whereas films like “The Nun” or “Paranormal Activity” at least try techniques outside of the norm (e.g., intriguingly structured jump cuts or found footage-style composition), cinematographer Charlie Sarroff rarely ventures outside of the proverbial kiddie pool. Every shot is endlessly predictable — devoid of fun, trite and derivative of every basic scary movie since the genre’s inception. Not to mention, if I can be allowed a small gripe, the film’s color palette is the same shade of muted “blah” that Blumhouse has come to recycle for most — if not all — of its theatrical releases. There’s no need to go full “Mandy” (Nicolas Cage’s 2018 technicolor thriller), but the least that “Night Swim” could offer is a little visual variety to distract from its unnecessary existence. 

I could go on, but at the end of the day, there is little utility in listing the flaws of such an utter waste of space. “Night Swim” is awful, it’s true, but it is ultimately just a symptom of a larger problem. 

As film companies grow larger and larger, and thus are too big to fail, laziness inevitably starts to set in. Where once creativity reigned, now there is only the bottom line. And when this is the case, movies that contain anything even remotely innovative are pushed to the margins. 

Horror, as a notoriously cheap genre to produce, should ideally be the exception to this rule, given that its low cost decreases the risk of trying new and innovative things. But as “Night Swim” proves, the insidious lure of easy money is increasingly infringing upon the drive to put effort into scripts. It’s been coming for a while — look no further than the endless march of “Halloween” sequels or half-baked, concept-based creations — but it appears that Bryce McGuire might have reached the pinnacle of stupidity, greed and intellectual bankruptcy. 

I won’t conclude this review with a value judgment, only a warning. If you value the state of horror cinema, don’t bother spending your hard-earned cash on “Night Swim” this weekend, or any weekend for that matter. It is — and I cannot stress this enough — not worth it in any sense of the word.

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About the Contributor
William McCall, Senior Guide Editor
William McCall is a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences from Littleton, Colo., studying English. He is a big horror movie fan. [email protected]
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