Night Swim: 8 Similar Bone-Chilling Horror Movies You’ll Enjoy

Directed by Bryce McGuire, ‘Night Swim’ centers around a suburban family witnessing haunting visions surrounding their backyard pool. Often at night, the children are grabbed by a watery hand emerging from the depths. At other times they catch a glimpse of what appears to be a decrepit corpse sitting by the poolside. Soon, the ghastly presence finds a way out of the pool, through the water, and into their house.

The fear of dark, watery depths is universally present within us. McGuire exploits it frighteningly well, often using POV shots to take us beneath the surface of the water and into the darkness. A horror trope used in the movie is the evil spirit being restricted to a particular medium or entity, in this case, having its influence in the water. This creates an effective association between water and danger, leaving us in suspense at even small puddles or glasses of water. There are more movies like ‘Night Swim’ which use the murky depths, or an association with a particular medium to create their dreaded atmosphere.

8. Open Water (2003)

Based on a terrifying true story capable of inducing Thalassophobia, ‘Open Water’ revolves around two scuba divers who are accidentally left behind by their tour boat, stranded in shark-infested waters. The harrowing situation has the couple relying on each other and what little resources they have to survive until, hopefully, rescue efforts can find them. Their terrors take on life when they spot a shark fin circling them, feeling something brush against their leg.

Bad enough as their situation is, it gets worse when night falls, bringing with it a thunderstorm, threatening to tear them away from their only solace, each other. Under the direction of Chris Kentis, the film masterfully uses psychological horror, making our frantic imaginations do the movie’s work for it. While ‘Night Swim’ delivers a hydrophobic experience, ‘Open Water’ cranks up the primal fear of the unknown to its extreme, with the infinitely vast void rendering them helpless.

7. Dark Water (2005)

Directed by Walter Salles, ‘Dark Water’ revolves around Dahlia, a single mother seeking a fresh start with her daughter Cecilia. They move into a rundown apartment plagued by eerie occurrences, including dark water leaking from the ceiling. As the haunting intensifies, Dahlia unravels the building’s dark history and a chilling connection to a missing girl found drowned in its water tower.

Abandoned by her parents, the remaining essence of the girl flows through the dark water as she haunts the family, hiding in bathtubs and moving through the leaky roof. Like ‘Night Swim,’ its terrifying atmosphere is created by our association of the creepy spirit, with water, its medium of influence. Both films use the eerie history of their haunting spirits to great effect, making their dangerous intentions toward the hapless family even more terrifying.

6. Unfriended (2014)

Helmed by director Levan Gabriadze, ‘Unfriended’ follows a terrifying story of the digital age. The movie predominantly takes place on a computer screen, following a group of friends tormented by a malevolent force during a video chat. The account of a deceased classmate, Laura Barns, infiltrates the friends’ online conversation. Laura had been bullied by the group members to the point of taking her own life. The entity begins to unveil their darkest secrets, picking them off one by one in a twisted game of survival. As the swimming pool was the domain of our ethereal antagonist in ‘Night Swim,’ the digital world confines the spirit of Laura Barns, exerting its deadly influence through it until she finds the one responsible for her humiliation.

5. The Shallows (2016)

‘The Shallows’ acquaints us with Nancy Adams (Blake Lively), seeking solace by surfing at a secluded beach in Mexico. However, her serene retreat turns into a nightmare when she is attacked by a great white shark and stranded on a rock formation, mere 200 yards from the shore. The gripping narrative captures Nancy’s harrowing struggle for survival against the relentless predator, employing resourcefulness and resilience to outsmart the looming danger.

Collet-Serra’s direction masterfully creates a tense atmosphere, employing breathtaking cinematography that intensifies the terror of the ocean’s vastness sure to grip enjoyers of ‘Night Swim.’ Both films rely on the threat lurking just beneath the surface to create a sense of pensive terror.

4. Oculus (2013)

‘Oculus,’ directed by Mike Flanagan, revolves around siblings Kaylie and Tim Russell grappling with a malevolent supernatural entity embedded in an antique mirror. Blaming the mirror for their parents’ deaths, Kaylie endeavors to prove its sinister nature by documenting its effects while Tim is released from a psychiatric facility, believing the mirror to be innocuous. The narrative intertwines past and present, blurring the lines between reality and delusion. The mirror’s malefic influence resurfaces, causing chaos and manipulation, drawing the siblings into a disturbing cycle of horror.

Flanagan employs a non-linear storytelling style, creating a palpable sense of dread and uncertainty that pervades the film. The deceptive spirit in ‘Oculus’ resides in and around a single entity, much like the one from ‘Night Swim’ around the pool, using it to malevolently intrude into the lives of a defenseless family.

3. It Follows (2014)

Director David Robert Mitchell presents a unique horror concept involving a malevolent entity that follows its target relentlessly to kill them, until that person has a sexual encounter, making their partner the new target. Jay, the protagonist, becomes the bearer of the curse after a seemingly innocent sexual encounter. A sense of looming dread is palpable as Jay and her friends confront the entity, discovering its ominous ability to take various human forms and only be seen by its target. Unsettling and atmospheric, the movie amplifies tension through its haunting score and cinematography.

The film revels in the psychological terror of imminent doom, as the entity follows its target slowly in a direct line, come what may, eventually finding them. When characters of ‘Night Swim’ are around the pool, they share a similar sense of vulnerability with those of ‘It Follows,’ keeping us at the edge of our seats in fearful suspense. The entities in both films have a one-track methodology they have to use to get to their victims, amplified by a few tricks up their other-worldly sleeves.

2. Underwater (2020)

A William Eubank directorial, ‘Underwater’ delves into an intense and claustrophobic deep-sea nightmare. After a catastrophic earthquake compromises their underwater research facility, a team of researchers and engineers are forced to put on protective suits and hike across the ocean floor to reach safe haven. The team gets an inkling that something is stalking them, dark shapes darting away at the edge of their vision. A terrifying unknown presence was released during the natural disaster, lurking in the darkness while getting closer and closer to the group. The fear of water and darkness in ‘Night Swim,’ can be felt taken to the very edge in ’Underwater’, entering the realm of Lovecraftian horror.

1. Lights Out (2016)

‘Lights Out,’ directed by David F. Sandberg, is a spine-chilling horror film that revolves around a terrifying being linked to darkness. The story centers on Rebecca and her younger brother Martin, who encounter a malevolent supernatural force tied to their mother Sophie’s mysterious past. This entity only appears in the darkness, vanishing the moment light touches it. Sophie’s unstable mental state adds to the horror as the sinister presence begins to haunt her family.

Fueled by fear and a tragic history, the ghastly entity terrorizes them, pushing them to the brink of terror. Just as ‘Night Swim’ capitalized on the fear of dark waters, ‘Lights Out’ plays on the innate fear of the dark with horrifying efficiency. While the former may leave you afraid of pools, ‘Lights Out’ will have you jumping at your own shadow for days to come.

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