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Night Swim (Christian Movie Review)

About the Film 

January is often a dumping ground where studios drop their less anticipated movies. Every now and then, one of these less heralded films breaks through to become a surprise success story. Last year, Blumhouse achieved breakout success with its doll-centric horror flick, M3GAN. Night Swim is the studio’s attempt to catch lightning in a bottle again with another PG-13 horror/thriller that preys on primal fears. Unfortunately, Night Swim doesn’t make much of a ripple, failing to venture beyond the shallow end in a middling horror film largely void of scares.  

Night Swim attempts to capitalize on the universal fear of drowning, tugging on every parent’s anxiety about unsupervised children by a pool. It’s a promising foundation for a horror flick, but Night Swim is unable to make the most of its concept. The movie was first conceived as a successful short film, and it becomes evident that the filmmakers are laboring to stretch that concentrated dosage of terror into a gripping full-length film.  

The first two thirds of the movie fall into a repetitive cycle: a family member goes into the murky water, sees vague and unexplainable sights, flails around on the verge of drowning, and then emerges from the water unsure about what they just experienced. These episodic scenes unfold in a start-and-stop fashion without establishing any sense of escalating tension from one encounter to the next. Eventually, the movie does begin to reveal a larger scope and find some traction, but it’s too little too late. Despite resulting in some of the better scares, these later revelations feel somewhat disconnected from the previously established narrative.  

Perhaps the biggest issue with Night Swim is that it is just not very frightening. The PG-13 rating means that some of the “shock value” horror tropes are absent. On the positive side, the more restrained and relatively mild horror elements allow the story to be more accessible to audiences outside of the horror genre. I appreciate that the film avoided reducing itself to a desensitizing bloodbath.  

Yet the horror elements the film does offer are not all that scary. Night Swim fails to convey the suffocating anxiety of drowning. The viewer never feels much danger or unease, and the visual horror elements often feel hokey instead of terrifying. I was always keenly aware that I was watching a horror movie play out rather than being pulled into the edge-of-your-seat, breathless action.  

The film arguably works better as a family drama than as a horror movie. Unlike some horror stories, the film doesn’t introduce paper-thin characters as mere fodder for the carnage. Instead, it centers on the experiences of a single family. The characters are well-developed and believable as an imperfect but loving family. I cared about each of them, even if I didn’t always find the unfolding drama compelling. 

Despite an intriguing premise and the promising potential to tug upon some deep and universal human fears, Night Swim’s waters are too tranquil and stretched too thin to make an impact. It’s not an awful movie, but it’s not scary or clever enough to elevate itself beyond a stereotypical “first week in January” film. 

On the Surface

For Consideration

Beneath The Surface

Engage The Film

“Love Requires Sacrifice”   

Ray is a former professional baseball player whose career has been cut short due to multiple sclerosis. As he attempts to establish a new life for himself, he struggles to let go of the past. As his condition worsens, his doctor encourages him that he and his family can build an exciting new life together. On multiple occasions, a character states that “love requires sacrifice.”  

Christians can affirm that sentiment, but the way that sacrifice is understood in the film (at least initially) is contrary to a biblical understanding. There is a mechanic in the film where a boon granted to one person requires a sacrifice from another. It is a selfish love that requires others to pay the price. The pool is described as able to grant people what they desire most, and it becomes a sort of metaphor for sinking deeper into selfish desires and losing sight of other people’s needs.  

The Bible offers a different understanding of love and sacrifice: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). In a larger spiritual sense, there is also the example of Christ offering himself as the ultimate sacrifice and perfect demonstration of love (Romans 5:8). 

By the end of the film, the characters have grown in their understanding and no longer look for others to meet their own selfish desires, instead sacrificing their own desires to bless others. In this way, the film provides a picture of a Christ-like love.   

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1 Comment

  • by Katherine Bhana
    Posted April 6, 2024 2:24 am 0Likes

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