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Who Lives? Who Dies? The Ending of Night Swim Explained
What is the fate of the Waller family at the end of the new horror thriller from Atomic Monster and Blumhouse Productions?
Spoiler warning! Spoilers for Night Swim within!
On the surface, writer/director Bryce McGuire's Night Swim is an original story about what happens when a suburban family buys a house with a haunted pool. But there's a lot more going on under the surface — literally and figuratively — when it comes to the Waller family at the center of the narrative. In particular, the diagnosis of secondary progressive multiple sclerosis for family patriarch Ray Waller (Wyatt Russell) creates the opportunity for the family to choose to put down roots and buy a house with a pool to help with his physical therapy. A seemingly innocuous decision, but that's not the case when it comes to this particular house and this particular pool.
As Ray, his wife Eve (Kerry Condon), and their two kids Izzy (Amélie Hoeferle) and Elliot (Gavin Warren), settle into their new home, the complexities of this family get revealed. Since Ray was a professional baseball player, his diagnosis has taken away the very thing he's defined himself as: an athlete who travels for the love of the game. But without his health and career, Ray spirals in fear for what he's lost and in recognizing how much he's hasn't put his family first. Now under the same roof, the fractures in Ray and Eve's marriage become more apparent and the kids are also trying to awkwardly reorient themselves around their dad's new frailties.
And then the pool becomes a godsend to Ray as his laps and time in it seem to have a consequential impact on his bettering health. While he becomes stronger, Eve, Izzy, and Elliot all start to have very different experiences with the pool, as it seems to beckon each one of them into it with far less positive results than Ray experiences. After several near tragedies centered around the pool, Eve is compelled to learn more about the property and the pool from those who lived there before, which finally reveals a dark history that's been hidden from them.
What happens at the end of the Night Swim?
After Eve speaks with a previous owner of the house about her missing daughter and the disappearance's possible connection to the pool, the truth comes out about the long history of the underground natural spring that feeds into the pool in the Waller's backyard. According to local lore, the spring has always been able to grant people who enter it their deepest desires... but always for a price. In the case of the former owners, it was the sacrifice of their daughter to remedy the lung problems of their only son, granting him a prosperous life.
What finally dawns on Eve is that the pool is restoring Rey back to full health, but it wants someone in their family as a permanent trade so they can join all the other souls in the spring who were taken in exchange for someone's wish. Terrified for her kids, Eve rushes home to chaos as the dark spirits have cut off the house and essentially possessed Ray to give over one of his kids to the pool for his restored health. It's Elliot who gets thrown into the pool and is almost drained of his life, until his mother arrives to save him. It's in that terrible moment that Ray comes back to himself and understands that there will be no safety for Eve and the kids unless he gives his gift back. Without any question or debate, he makes the ultimate sacrifice of love towards his family and gives himself over to the deep end of the pool.
In one of Ray's video recordings that he typically used to document his training, it's inferred that his grieving family finds a message to them where Ray is speaking to them, straight into the camera. At some point after his diagnosis, it seems Ray left this recorded message to tell them how much he took for granted about his health and his family when he was obsessed with baseball. But losing what he thought defined him as a person, and subsequently spending quality time with his family, has reminded him exactly how important they are to him, and not the game. It's a haunting final message of love.
Some time after Ray's death, Eve, Izzy, and Elliot are seen in the backyard looking at the now empty pool that brought them so much loss. The trio discuss their choice not to sell the house so they can actively prevent the curse of the spring water pool from harming another family. Instead, they are at peace with their decision to have the entire pool backfilled with dirt and they watch the first scoops of soil get dumped in.
Could there be a sequel to Night Swim?
While the story of the Waller family feels very complete at the end of Night Swim, Eve's discovery of the spring's existence and its dark history could certainly lead to more stories about others in the past that it lured into its depths, or other places the waters could have infiltrated.
Producer Ryan Turek told NBC Insider that they "never say never" at Blumhouse Productions regarding sequels, especially if Night Swim does well with audiences. "I'm more interested to move forward as opposed to going back because I feel like we know what the outcome is for those folks [in the spring]," he said of his preference for a sequel if given the chance. "What Bryce did, very slyly, was mentioned where the water source was coming from. So you just have to assume that that water is trickling somewhere else into another piece of the neighborhood or something."
McGuire agreed, and told us that he absolutely crafted a path to continue. "There is a reference and allusion to something that if we get the opportunity, I would love to go to in the next movie," he revealed. "It is set up by one of our characters. It's just a little thing where're you're like, 'What's that about?' To me, that's where my mind's going because there's more story to tell there."
Night Swim is in theaters exclusively now. Get tickets here!