- Film And TV
- 05 Jan 24
No running. No diving. No lifeguard on duty. No swimming after dark... They are the rules if you want to survive Night Swim, the new horror that’s sure to give you nightmares. Here are five reasons to see this atmospheric creep-fest in cinemas from today, January 5 – if you dare…
1. BASED ON A SHORT FILM
This atmospheric horror is based on the acclaimed 2014 short film by Rod Blackhurst (Blood for Dust; the Emmy-nominated Netflix documentary Amanda Knox) and Bryce McGuire, which was under five minutes long and was shot in the back garden of musician Michelle Branch. The short featured actress Megalyn Echikunwoke (Fox’s Almost Family) as a young woman who is terrified when an evening swim in her pool leads to a close encounter with something creepy. The short went viral online and after you’ve seen Night Swim in the cinemas you can go back and watch the short to compare.
2. CLASSIC HORROR INFLUENCES
McGuire, who has adapted the short for the big screen, says that the idea for Night Swim was inspired by his childhood and adolescence spent by the water.
“I’ve always had water on the brain,” McGuire says. “Growing up in Florida, surrounded by ocean on three sides, in a climate that can only really be survived by partaking in water ritual, knowing friends who drowned, hurricanes that flooded homes, boating accidents, shark attacks, you come to have a kind of fear and reverence for the water.”
This awareness of the mysterious danger of the deep led him to seek out classic horror movies that fed into his fear.
"Probably the first horror film I ever saw was Creature from the Black Lagoon, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since; I have a Creature tattoo on my right bicep,” says McGuire, who also cites Night of the Hunter and The Abyss as formative experiences. “And, of course, there was Jaws. I saw that movie when I was 10 years old. We had a swimming pool at the time, and I remember treading water by myself at night when my younger brother turned the lights out. And even though I knew the pool was only 9 feet deep and 18 feet wide, I was certain beyond any doubt that the water was an abyss and something horrible was rising toward me from the depths.”
3. EIGHTIES NOSTALGIA
Night Swim takes the safe, almost mundane pleasure of suburban life and transforms it into a wellspring of demonic evil. The emotional resonance of interrupting suburban America with uncontrollable horror is reminiscent classic eighties-era chillers like Poltergeist and Pet Sematary, with the work of Stephen King proving a big influence.
“The novels of Stephen King made a mark,” says McGuire, “specifically ones that turned humdrum features of everyday life—the family dog; a car; a toy—into talismans and vessels of supernatural evil.
“The idea of an inanimate object or location being a source of mystery, terror, a crucible for someone’s innermost wishes, imprinted itself on my imagination. It’s always the things that are prettiest on the outside that can harm us the most.”
Night Swim has some direct references and covert allusions to eighties pop culture, not only to evoke some nostalgia but to play with the film’s themes. “We set the cold open in the eighties in part because I wanted to evoke the feeling of nostalgia from older movies like Poltergeist, Christine, Burnt Offerings, or Jaws that inspired Night Swim,” McGuire says. “Most of the movie takes place in the unspecified present day, but in many ways the movie is about letting go of the past, so it felt right to indulge that feeling of nostalgia at the top.”
4. THE STELLAR CAST AND CREW
Night Swim is packing some major horror credentials behind the scenes. The film is produced by James Wan, the filmmaker behind the Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring franchises, and Jason Blum, the producer of the Halloween films, The Black Phone and The Invisible Man. Executive producers include Judson Scott (M3GAN) and Ryan Turek (The Exorcist: Believer.) But the best horror story is nothing without a great cast, and bringing Night Swim to life are stars Wyatt Russell (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Overlord) as Ray Waller, Oscar nominee Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) as his concerned wife Eve; Amelie Hoeferle (The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes) as teenage daughter Izzy; and Fear Of The Walking Dead’s Gavin Warren as young son Elliot.
5. LAYERED FAMILY DYNAMICS
The feature-length Night Swim takes the simple premise of the original short and expands it into a complex mythology with a family at its centre; devoted husband and wife, Ray and Eve who have moved a lot due to Ray’s career as a professional baseball player; competitive high-school student and competitive swimmer Izzy; and her awkward and sensitive tween brother Elliot. When Ray gets sick and has to retire, the family buy a suburban home with a big pool in an attempt to live a more stable life – but the pool has other plans. For McGuire, the pool comes to represent something different to each character.
“As soon as you start with the iconic backyard swimming pool as the central location and antagonist, you’re already surrounded by certain ideas and imagery,” McGuire says. “What does the pool represent? What did it mean in culture? What does it mean to me? How has it been used in other movies? The pool may be the most iconic symbol of the American dream. So, we started thinking about who this family was and what their dream was. Even though this is the story of a professional baseball player who gets sick and must rethink his entire identity, what the family wants when they move into this house is universal. Health, stability, community, the pursuit of happiness. And the pool promises this to each of the family members in different ways.
"Each character was chosen to represent some fundamental wish or desire at each stage in life—childhood, adolescence, adulthood and finally, someone who medically is representing old age. They are closer to death, and the desire for youth, strength, and health is the strongest. Like the American dream itself, the movie asks the same question: What do you need to be happy and what are you willing to do to get it?”
Night Swim is in cinemas from today, January 5th.
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