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Blumhouse & Atomic Monster's New Horror Film Night Swim Is Ready to Ruin Pools for You

Director Bryce McGuire told Comic Con attendees that Night Swim's concept is not just a long game of Marco Polo.

By Stephanie Gomulka

One of Universal Picture’s upcoming horror films from Blumhouse and Atomic Monster is ready to make a big splash in the new year.

Night Swim director and screenwriter Bryce McGuire joined Blumhouse founder Jason Blum to dive into details about the new scary movie for a panel at New York Comic Con last week. 

Night Swim director Bryce McGuire on making a scary movie centered on a swimming pool 

“That was a really exciting challenge of like, seemingly it’s this small body of water, but there’s more to it," McGuire told  SYFY Wire shortly before the panel.

RELATED: The Pool Is Very Much Haunted in First Eerie Trailer for Blumhouse & James Wan's Night Swim

From YMCA trips to the swimming pool to playing Marco Polo at night, or even urban legends surrounding the water, McGuire wanted to “weaponize” and “exploit” collective memories people have about the pool.  

“We all grew up around pools,” McGuire said. “It was just kind of looking at all of the universal memories and things we have ... nostalgia around the pool and being like, 'How do I just f-cking ruin that for each one of those?'” 

During the panel, McGuire pointed to one inspiration being the fear he felt in the water after seeing Steven Spielberg’s Jaws as a kid: “If I cannot see the bottom of the pool, it’s not there.” McGuire said. “There’s a universal aspect to the water, even in a place that should be safe and domesticated and fun and sexy ... it feels like we’re not in our element anymore. We’re not the top of the food chain.” 

A major question in his filmmaking process was figuring out how to reinvent tropes for this environment, McGuire told SYFY Wire. “I think we're doing things that in some ways may have familiar elements to them, but you haven't seen them in this way before,” McGuire said. “How do you make a swimming pool feel like the ocean?” 

Who stars in Night Swim?

A couple looks down into a pool covered in leaves and blue tarp in Night Swim (2023).

Academy Award Nominee Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin) and Wyatt Russell (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) star as a family who moves into their home with the hope of using the pool for fun and physical therapy. Russell plays Ray, who’s an ex-pro baseball player recovering from an injury.  

“[Wyatt’s] a former athlete like the character in the movie,” McGuire said. “He’s so physical. He’s willing to go to crazy places. He’s fearless in what he does as a performer, and I couldn’t ask for better people in both of those roles.” 

The cast gave him a sense of validation that they were building a story that matters, McGuire said: “If it wasn’t a human story, they wouldn’t have done it,” the director noted. “It has to start with those characters, and what that character journey is, or you don’t get talent like that.” 

RELATED: Five Nights at Freddy’s Creators Talk Easter Eggs, Monster Design Secrets & More at NYCC

Night Swim is based on a short film of the same name from Rod Blackhurst and McGuire, but it took time before McGuire came up with a concept that worked for a feature film. 

“I had one of those ideas that just comes to you fully formed and I was like, 'Okay that’s a mystery, that’s a concept, that’s a mythology, that’s a mechanism that becomes more than just a game of Marco Polo that lasts for an hour and a half,'” McGuire said at the panel. “There’s a whole other dimension to what's going on here.” 

The project originated at Atomic Monster, James Wan's production company in the process of merging with Blumhouse. Of course, Wan is credited for creating several iconic horror franchises including The Conjuring and Saw

“Shooting underwater is a real pain, I don’t recommend it,” Blum joked to SYFY Wire. “I really was excited about this script, excited about working Atomic Monster again after our collaboration on M3GAN, and eventually the companies are coming together.” 

Universal Picture’s Night Swim plunges into theaters January 5, 2024.