Director: Bryce McGuire Screenwriter: Bryce McGuire Cast: Wyatt Russell, Kerry Condon, Amélie Hoeferle, Gavin Warren Distributor: Universal Pictures Running Time: 98 min. MPAA: PG-13

A haunted swimming pool is not the worst concept in the world. It has some potential for the premise of something dark lurking under waves, playing on fears of drowning. There are components within Night Swim that could make for a compelling horror film in terms of stylish frights and thematic allure. Sadly, this film doesn’t very far into the deep end with its premise.

The Waller family hopes their move to a Minnesota suburb will yield some rest and healing for the former baseball player Ray (Wyatt Russell). Even though he has MS, his family stands by his side through his medical issues. His wife, Eve (Kerry Condon), shows no signs of desiring to leave Ray in his darkest hour. His children, Izzy (Amélie Hoeferle) and Elliot (Gavin Warren), show similar trust but some lingering doubt in proving themselves to their athlete-star dad.

Ray has started to heal magically after some swims in the new pool, giving him enough strength to crack home runs at Elliot’s baseball game (much to his chagrin). The pool also starts attacking the rest of the family. Sometimes, they’re led to believe someone is under the water. Sometimes, they get pulled under the water. Sometimes, they see spooky spirits popping their heads out of the drains. Ultimately, the pool gives good health and takes a sacrifice, making it less of a haunted swimming pool and more of a deadly wishing well. Again, there’s a lot of fun stuff to play with on that premise.

Paced at a brisk 98 minutes, there’s barely a balance of character in the race to spooky pool horror scenes. There’s not enough time for Elliot to feel alone in the shadow of his father, nor the growing egotism of Ray when the pool makes him stronger. This makes the more emotional frights of a family being split arrive more abrupt than progressive, slamming into its violent third act with loose rules about how the pool functions. The rush toward scenes of Elliot floating towards a ghost girl’s voice and a frightening change in a game of Marco Polo doesn’t have the personality to make these frightening scenes exciting or engaging.

There’s so little time spent on these characters that I sometimes had to remind myself what they were doing. Eve is studying for a degree in special education, but we don’t see much of her work or how it applies to this premise. Izzy is trying out for a swimming team because of a boy she is falling for, but we never witness a single one of her swim meets. Ray’s descent into becoming a vessel of the evil pool spirits is so inexplicable, made all the worse by Wyatt Russell’s performance. It doesn’t bode well for a movie like this where the biggest laugh came from Ray’s absurdly passive delivery of “Is he okay?” when asking about his son who nearly drowned seconds ago.

There’s nothing all that compelling lurking in the murky depths of Night Swim. The family drama never feels fully there, and the moments of horror play are elongated and lacking short films on the same topic. All the terror that can be experienced with a pool feels only partially explored and never pays off as well as it should. The underwater sequences are not bad for shooting a shockingly deep version of the pool. Yet, there’s always the sensation that you’re probably in the kiddie pool, considering how shallow this picture gets the further it goes.

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