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  • Jeff Beck

Night Swim: A Short Film Gets Drowned at Feature Length (Blu-ray)


The Film:


It's been noted time and time again that horror is one of the very hardest genres to come up with an original idea for. Chances are, if you think that you've thought of something unique, it's likely already been done in some capacity, which truly forces filmmakers to think outside the box when it comes to giving horror hounds something that they haven't seen before. Screenwriters Bryce McGuire and Rod Blackhurst were certainly trying hard to do so when they came up with their very short film "Night Swim" back in 2014, and now, a decade later, they've been given the opportunity to expand the "haunted pool" idea into a feature film. Could this be one of those rare "out there" ideas that gives horror fans a satisfying treat, or is this a concept that was best left in its remarkably brief form?


Starting in 1992, we witness young Rebecca Summers pulled under water by a mysterious force in her family's pool while trying to retrieve her brother's toy boat. Jumping to present day, we meet the Wallers: Ray (Wyatt Russell), his wife Eve (Kerry Condon), and their children Izzy (Amélie Hoeferle) and Elliot (Gavin Warren), who are moving into the house once occupied by the Summers family. Ray has recently had to retire from playing baseball due to his MS,and they figure the pool could help with his condition. The pool therapy does indeed help his illness, but Eve starts to notice certain changes in him that cause her concern. Meanwhile, other alarming events occur around the pool which show that whatever was happening decades earlier could be happening again.


Taking a brief look at the original short, there's nothing particularly wrong with it. It's three minutes of someone swimming in a pool, being watched by unknown entities, before being pulled under the water and disappearing. It basically does what a horror short should in that it provides some creepy moments in a small amount of time. However, while the short may have worked well enough, the prospect of trying to turn it into a feature film is a completely different matter, one that should've been met with a lot more hesitation than it was.


"Night Swim" is one of those films where it must have been very evident even during the writing process that it simply wasn't going to work. It may have been able to pass off as a kind of dumb, cheesy sort of horror flick that doesn't take itself all that seriously, but what we get instead is one that's more of a dull mess, one that makes it abundantly clear that it was desperately stretched and heavily padded out from a short film.


Even the very idea of a "haunted swimming pool" sounds more like a silly comedy, and again, if they had leaned more in that direction, then there is a chance that it may have worked, but McGuire & Blackhurst's film takes itself so seriously with this ridiculous situation that it never even really stood much of a chance of turning out well. If anything, "Night Swim" is a great reminder of why you should always have friends & colleagues look over your script, give you pointers, and even more basically let you know if the idea is good or not. Just the simple act of getting feedback could've done wonders for something like this.


It's a shame too because the film features the wonderful Kerry Condon (who was fresh off her much-deserved Oscar nomination for "The Banshees of Inisherin," for which she should've easily won), trying to do her best with the sub-par screenplay, but even her remarkable talent wasn't going to be able to bring this DOA material to life. Indeed, it seems highly unlikely that any amount of talent would have been able to resuscitate this idea that drowned very early on in the planning stages, though I suppose you do have to admire them a bit for attempting to take a ludicrous idea like this and make a feature-length film out of it, even if it did ultimately end in disaster. Some shorts were simply meant to stay shorts.


Video/Audio:


"Night Swim" comes to Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. Much of the film is rather dark, but the image remains perfectly sharp & clear throughout its entire duration. Likewise, the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is fantastic, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and music/jump scares in outstanding quality. Overall, Universal has done a great job for the film's debut home release.


Special Features:


Feature Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Bryce McGuire

Masters of Fear (7 Minutes)

Demons from the Depths (7 Minutes)

Into the Deep (6 Minutes)

Marco Polo (4 Minutes)


The Blu-ray comes with a series of brief featurettes that delve into the making of the film, exploring areas such as the creature effects and filming underwater, as well as an informative commentary track with the film's co-writer/director.


Conclusion:


The haunted swimming pool concept of "Night Swim" may have worked just fine as a short film back in 2014, delivering some quick, creepy moments in just a few minutes, but stretched & padded out to feature length, the idea simply drowns, becoming a rather dull & tedious mess that not even the talent of the wonderful Kerry Condon can save.


Score: 2/5


Available on Blu-ray starting tomorrow.


Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.



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