The recently re-released mystery drama “The Midnight Swim” explores deep and dark territory with a beauty that will sweep you away.
Though it premiered way back in 2014 at the Fantasia International Film Festival, Sarah Adina Smith’s debut film The Midnight Swim recently found a rebirth thanks to Yellow Veil Pictures, which acquired the film through their distribution arm for North American release.
The film was released digitally on January 25, 2022, and was also given a well-deserved special collector’s edition Blu-ray release (in partnership with Vinegar Syndrome).
This marked the first acquisition in an initiative for Yellow Veil to spotlight previously released independent genre films and filmmakers prime for re-discovery and impactful re-releases.
The Midnight Swim is a wonderfully acted and beautifully filmed drama that definitely deserves the new recognition it’s receiving. Why? Because it handles its heavy themes of mental illness, death, and complex family drama in an artistic and engaging manner that makes you feel something — and what else is a movie for?
In The Midnight Swim, three sisters travel home to settle the affairs of their mother, a doctor who disappeared while diving into a mysterious lake by her home that is notoriously deep. They each deal with the loss in different ways, including filming each other documentary-style which gives the picture a found footage element during many of its scenes.
But the theme holding it all together is the legend of the lake itself which looms large over the action and gives the viewer something to look forward to – namely, a dark mystery that demands to be revealed.
Once you’re invested in the characters, you’ll be in for the whole ride including through the end credits (you won’t want to miss one note of Ellen Reid’s eerie soundtrack).
The question of whether or not you’ll be satisfied with the ending will probably depend on how you feel about arthouse horror and indie films in general. This is definitely targeting an audience that is comfortable with exploring women’s psyches from a female perspective, and unlike a lot of horror there’s not a stroke of exploitation to be found.
Writer/director Smith (whose segment in 2016’s Holidays horror anthology, “Mother’s Day” covered similarly creepy ground) shows that she knows her way around the darkness and doesn’t mind taking you by the hand like a mother and guiding you through it towards the light.
What do you believe about consciousness itself? What are your thoughts on past lives? Where do we go when we die? How are we to process the worst parts of those who raise us?
The Midnight Swim wants to take you deeper and deeper into these themes until you reach the bottom of your own lake.
There, just as in the film, you will take into consideration those you love, that which you believe, and echoes of the past that threaten to imprint their own themes onto what you may or may not be willing to believe.
Is that convoluted? Perhaps. A bit.
That’s why it helps that the filmmakers incorporate colors, sound, music, set design, nuanced acting, symmetrical construction and camera angles, and layered storytelling into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
There are puzzle pieces to be inserted, then removed, then pondered, then put into their proper place.
But you can’t help but become engaged with these three women on their own journeys through grief while the tension of the unanswered questions of their mother’s disappearance and the myths and mysteries surrounding them pile on the goosebumps.
Part ghost story, part family drama, and part Lynchian morbid-thought-provoker, THE MIDNIGHT SWIM is a cool and classy look at a side of ourselves we don’t often want to look at…but find ourselves compelled to do so from time to time, often to chilling effect.