There's blood in the water: Dive in with Night Swim's director and cast

There’s blood in the water: Dive in with Night Swim’s director and cast

Night Swim writer and director Bryce McGuire and stars Kerry Condon and Wyatt Russell discuss their watery horror.

“I think it’s in our biological imprint to know that the water is not for us,” says writer and director Bryce McGuire (pictured above). “We are still able to tap into that ancestral connection with the element, in the sense that some part of us knows it just isn’t our home.”

We’re talking about one of the central subjects in McGuire feature film debut, Night Swim, which is out in cinemas now.

“We are drawn to water and even like to vacation around it, but it is also a place where people can die,” he continues. “Not to be morbid, but we do have a dualistic and paradoxical relationship with water. There is a whole chapter in Melville’s Moby-Dick about how civilization has always been drawn to water and yet there is that whale that is trying to kill them. Both are true, so the pool in this story needed to represent both the allure and the danger.”

Night Swim is an expanded telling of McGuire’s and Rod Blackhurst’s 2014 short of the same name, which sees a young woman alone at night swimming in a pool until something disturbs her serenity (you can watch it here).  

“Initially, it was just an exercise in environment and atmosphere about trying to make the pool feel scary—that was it!” McGuire explains of the short movie. “Then people kept asking me if there was a larger story and a feature film there, which led me to ask myself that question. For three years the answer was no, until some events in my life led me to explore who this family was.”

The story in the feature film focuses on the Waller family, comprising dad Ray Waller (a former major league baseball player forced into early retirement by multiple sclerosis), who moves into a new home with his concerned wife Eve (Kerry Condon), teenage daughter Izzy (Amélie Hoeferle) and young son Elliot (Gavin Warren).

Ray (Wyatt Russell) and Eve (Kerry Condon) have moved into a new home.

When they move into their new home, Ray utilises their new pool as a form of regenerative therapy for this illness.

“The Wallers are trying to turn a corner while Ray is recovering,” McGuire explains. “He can’t be a professional athlete anymore and so much has been wrapped up in that endeavor that now they have to ask themselves questions like, “Who are we? What do we want? How do we find happiness?” In a way, the pool fulfills some part of that dream for each of the family members in the form of community, health, stability, and permanence. So, a big turning point in why I thought this could be a movie after all was not just figuring out how the pool could harm them, but also what they could gain from it.”

Ray soon becomes slightly obsessed with the pool and slowly begins to violently change. However, it was important for McGuire to initially show him as a genuinely good person: “I think at the moment we meet him, Ray is a man who is trying to accept a life without baseball, move on and invest in being there as a father and a husband for his family,” he explains. “When he tells his wife, Eve, in the hospital that he wants that life, I felt it was important that he meant it. He is not Jack Torrance in The Shining, who is kind of a psycho from the very beginning, making you sense that he is unhealthy and deranged. I wanted Ray to be redeemable at the start of the story and actually mean what he said he wanted. But, without getting too much into it, that’s going to be tested…”

Ray gets tested…

Ray is played by Wyatt Russell, who we can currently see playing a younger version of his real life dad, Kurt Russell, in Apple TV+’s kaiju series, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters

“Wyatt Russell brought so much to the role!” says McGuire. “He is a former professional athlete that played hockey in Canada and abroad who also had to walk away from it after getting hurt. He had sacrificed and given so much to the sport that he understood the psychology of someone who is struggling to let the adrenaline go and walk away. So, he brought real life experience and a perfect understanding of the character.”

For Russell, the fact that Night Swim is a Blumhouse movie produced by two stalwarts of horror – Jason Blum and James Wan – is what initially drew him to the role: “If they are going to put their name on something, you know they are going to do everything they can to make it great,” he explains. “On top of that, I thought it was a really good idea that I had never seen on screen before, which is hard to believe.”

Playing beside Russell is ​​Kerry Condon, who plays Ray’s wife Eve, who cites the pool itself as an appealing aspect which drew her to the movie: “For me, it was first about the water aspect of it because I am a good swimmer and I wanted to show my physicality,” she nods. “I love water in movies and I think filming in water is beautiful, so I wanted to be a part of that and learn more about it. 

“I also liked the idea of an American role where I was playing an everywoman who is a mother that doesn’t have a career but ultimately is the strongest of the two parents, the least selfish and the backbone of the family. It was an even-keeled character.”

Eve has taken an administrative job in the local school while completing her degree in special education and who certainly shows her personal durability in the movie from humble beginnings: “Eve shows her strength in a real and simple way,” Condon explains. “She is not a commander in the army, but a mother who lets her husband have a career while taking care of everything. I liked that because I felt it would resonate with regular people.”

“A large part of her journey was about holding this family together when it was all about Ray’s career,” McGuire adds. “And now you see her rising into the forefront of the story and being the one that really drives the family. Eve’s character arch is important because you need her to be strong and I think that’s what Kerry was most interested in.”

Eve shows a real strength in the movie.

Eve works at the school where her children, Izzy and Elliot, attend. “The children were great!” Condon says of her young co-stars. “One of the things that Jason Blum had said to me from the beginning—as I was a little bit unsure if I was the right person for the role because I had never done horror before—was to not worry and just play it real. I liked how my character grew closer to her daughter over the course of the movie and Amélie Hoeferle was amazing in that role.”

The last main character in the movie has to be the pool itself, and for McGuire, it was important for the movie to be shot in a real one: “You can’t really fake that,” he says. “And once we found [the pool], it was almost like casting an actor because I could observe what strengths it had. I would constantly walk around it, stand on the diving board and swim in the pool to embrace everything about it—the way a director works with actors to utilize everything in their tool kits.

“I made the pool attractive yet simultaneously scary,” he continues. “So, during the day it’s more like a blue sky, but then at night it takes on a different color and a separate identity.”

Night Swim - 3
The pool is a character of its own.

Indeed, the idealistic dreams of the Waller family in their new home soon turns into a nightmare as Ray becomes more addicted to what the pool offers and McGuire turned to those two horror filmmaking powerhouses when it came to those macabre elements of the story. “It was absolutely incredible to have Jason Blum and James Wan on this project!” he says. 

“James Wan is very hands on and involved in the creative process. I would bring my storyboards to his house, and we would bounce ideas back and forth. This way I got to see how the brain of a master horror filmmaker works, to the point where I felt I was getting 5 years of film school in one movie. So, he was on set watching the monitor with me, always being so collaborative and respectful because James just wants to help you make the best movie possible, and there are specific things in Night Swim that have his fingerprint on them. This whole thing happened because he loved the short film, so why wouldn’t I want to have him in my corner helping me make the best possible movie?

“And the same thing can be said about Jason, because if you have a problem and feel there is a mountain that can’t be moved, he is the person that can move it. Night Swim would not exist without Jason Blum’s support.”

The movie has two horror filmmaking legends behind it.

As for the cast, though neither are known for the genre, they can see the positivity of working in the horror space: “A filmmaker working in horror has a lot of room for creativity and a large canvas to paint on, which is why great directors have been found in this genre,” explains Russell. “And everybody wants to go and share that experience together. Sharing a fright knowing that it can’t hurt you makes you feel alive. It’s just great to cry, laugh or be scared in a room with strangers because you are sharing an emotion, and fear is one of the strongest. At the end of the day, you go to a theater to feel that emotion with other people.”

“I think it has to do with the adrenaline that makes you feel alive, like when you ride a rollercoaster,” adds Condon. “It’s ingrained in human nature. Maybe it’s just in us.” 

Night Swim is in cinemas now. Read our review here.