Take a Drink: for midnight docks
Take a Drink: for every reference to the Seven Sisters
Take a Drink: for any mention of the lake or drowning
Take a Drink: for birds
Do a Shot: whenever the camera is acknowledged
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
We’ve seen plenty of tweaks to the found footage horror template in the fifteen-odd years since The Blair Witch Project kicked off its current phase, but we’ve never really seen an arthouse attempt.
No, Bobcat Goldthwait’s Bigfoot movie doesn’t count
The Midnight Swim makes a go of it. Three sisters return to their childhood home after their mother disappears in the depths of the lake she spent her life studying. One, June, is obsessively filming everything for her “documentary”, and begins to capture some creepy goings-on at the lake. Yep, this is a horror film.
Writer/Director Sarah Adina Smith has several agendas she’s trying to balance in this film- a psychological profile of these three sisters, an involved mythology of this mysterious lake, the riddle of the mother’s disappearance, the unraveling of the woman behind the camera, and the horror generated by all of the above. Choosing the “less is more” tack, she beautifully navigates them all. The Midnight Swim is ultimately a triumph of tone- disturbing, nostalgic, and even at times joyful.
She accomplishes this in part by using her one handheld camera in unique ways. Some compositions are beautiful, some intriguingly conceived, like an argument about selling the house playing out as the camera remains focused on the face of the realtor caught in the crossfire, and some legitimately hair-raising.
You’re doing it right when you can make a scarf scarier than any Rob Zombie reboot
One scene that will be a talking point for the film, a bugfuck musical interlude, is emblematic of Smith’s skill even as it feels like a weird departure. For a few moments, The Midnight Swim escapes the bounds of the handheld camera, and the oppressive bounds of these characters’ reality.
Lastly, I’d be remiss not to congratulate the very natural performances of the cast. In particular, Lindsay Burdge, when she steps out from behind the camera, is a force.
As well as the found footage stuff works in the film, there still needs to be some eyebrow-raising justifications for having the camera on the whole time, like “Oh, she eats by herself, she has since she was a kid.” Also, the fact Mom is played by Beverly from The Mindy Project threw me off more than it should.
If don’t know her, think female Creed Bratton
The Midnight Swim is an unsettling, yet somehow lovely meditation on loss and yearning that managed to prove found footage has a little left to give
Last Call: Wait for it through the credits. Oh, wait for it…