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The Midnight Swim (Yellow Veil) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • The Midnight Swim (Yellow Veil) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Yellow Veil
    Released on: February 22nd, 2022.
    Director: Sarah Adina Smith
    Cast: Lindsay Burdge, Jennifer Lafleur, Aleksa Palladino, Beth Grant, Ross Partridge
    Year: 2014
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Midnight Swim – Movie Review:

    Written and directed by Sarah Adina Smith and released in 2014, The Midnight Swim tells the story of what happens when a woman named Dr. Amelia Brooks (Beth Grant) vanishes when she embarks on a deep water diving expedition in Spirit Lake, a body of water so deep that reportedly no diver has ever reached the bottom of it.

    After her disappearance, with Brooks presumed dead, her three daughters – three half-sisters named Annie (Jennifer Lafleur), Isa (Aleksa Palladino) and June (Lindsay Burdge), the later of whom seems to be always behind a camera – travel back to Amelia’s lakeside home to sort out the details of her passing and her estate. As the three young women talk amongst themselves, sharing memories both good and bad about their past and about the mother they all share, June records many of these moments for a documentary she wants to make. Since their mother’s body was never found, it seems tough for them to really accept the fact that she’s gone, June in particular seems to struggle with this.

    Yet after spending a bit of time at the house, the three start to wonder if something is off and a reunion that started off as a bittersweet encounter between the three starts to turn into something that just might tie into a local folk legend about the lake’s supernatural history.
    Midnight Swim is very deliberate in its pacing. It isn’t necessarily the type of picture that’s going appeal to those who need a constant or even periodic barrage of special effects, or a loud score. The performances in the film, like the narrative itself, are often very understated with the performers sometimes mumbling their lines. Smith and company keep a bit of a distance from the audience here, letting us into this eerie world at a languid pace – but if you’re a fan of the slow burn, this movie pays off in spades, pulling us in as the story progresses and making us feel all of the grief, sadness and horror that the three central characters in the story deal with.

    With top notch cinematography by Shaheen Seth, the film always looks good. There are times when we see things through June’s POV, meaning her camera, where you think the movie might fall into the trappings of a found footage horror movie, but that never really happens and that aspect of the movie winds up being used very effectively. It’s completely in keeping with June’s character and by the time it’s all over, we understand why she wants to view things through a camera the way that she does. The movie’s visuals use water in an interesting way to create more than a couple of creepy images, while the score from Ellen Reid does a very solid job of amplifying the drama and the tension that is inherent in the proceedings of the main narrative.

    The acting is strong across the board. We have no problem whatsoever believing that these three actresses are half-sisters, the bond that exists between them feels very real and anyone who has siblings of their own, full-blood or otherwise, will definitely pick up on some of the quirks that the performances bring to the table.

    The Midnight Swim – Blu-ray Review:

    The Midnight Swim arrives on Region A Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation framed at 1.78.1 widescreen with the feature taking up 15GBs of space on the 25GB disc. Shot digitally, the image is spotless. Detail is strong, there’s pretty solid depth here, and colors look really good. Some shots are shot intended to look ‘handheld’ and understandably detail drops a bit there but overall this looks very nice.

    English language audio options are provided in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with optional subtitles provided in English only. While obviously a lossless option would have been preferable, the 5.1 mix here is quite good, spreading out the score and effects nicely enough and offering up clean, properly balanced dialogue.

    Extras start off with a commentary from the cast and crew, with input from writer/director Sarah Adina Smith along with cast members Jennifer Lafleur, Aleksa Palladino, Lindsay Burdge and Ross Partridge and an unnamed but seemingly very happy baby periodically chatting away in the background. It's a reasonably scene specific talk that goes over the themes of reincarnation discussed by the characters in the opening scene, how the movie was inspired when Smith held her infant nephew for the first time, details on how the different cast members approached their characters and their thoughts on those characters, why certain camera angles and techniques were used for certain scenes, how the cast and crew all basically lived together during the shoot, how everyone got along on the set and opted not to smoke but figured it was okay to drink, the pros and cons of keeping dead birds in your freezer, the use of music in the film, having to deal with a tornado warning during the shoot, when ADR had to be used due to wind on location during the shoot, and lots more.

    The Three Sisters featurette is a twenty-eight piece that is made up of an interview with Sarah Adina Smith sitting in front of a blurred bookshelf that looks like it has a lot of Marvel Comics trades on it. She talks about the complexities of sibling relationships and dynamics, why the characters are half-sisters instead of full-sisters, why their mother had children in the first place, what sets the three main characters apart and some of the interesting details of these characters, Smith's writing process, why June spends so much time behind the camera in the film, the influence that her mother and grandmother had on the look of the film, the two week shooting schedule and relaxed vibe on set, how the wardrobe was handled on the film, where some of the ideas for the story came from and the morality of those influences and quite a bit more. This is a very interesting, revealing interview, the kind that will further your appreciation of the movie as a whole.

    The Sirens is a short film by Sarah Adina Smith that runs for twelve minutes. It starts with a slow POV shot moving the viewer down a road before taking us into a car where three women are driving. One woman is offered medication by one of the others but refuses it. She's sick, terminally ill probably, and they've taken her someplace they think might help her, even if she isn't happy about it. They arrive at their destination and sign in, welcomed by an older woman with a thick foreign accent who tells them that her sisters, who reside nearby, take care of the lake. She also hands them earplugs and clothing that they're to wear while residing at this strange, lakeside camp. Later, the three go out into the middle of the lake in a boat and that's where things get strange. They come back to shore and the older woman speaks overtop about how it's time to say goodbye. We see the three women in a room lit by candles, the ill one laying down, the other two trying to comfort her - and we'll leave it at that. This is really well done, quite compelling and visually impressive. It's thematically engaging, we feel for the main characters even if we don't know much about them, and the art direction and cinematography is really strong.

    The Phoenix And The Turtle, also by Smith, is a two and a half minute short that features a bunch of women in a tree surrounded by water speaking in a foreign language under the night sky. Different images appear in what looks like a crystal ball inside a bird's nest. A narrator reads a poem overtop. I won't pretend I understood this one but it was weird enough to be interesting.

    A theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection finish off the extras on the disc.

    Inside the keepcase is a color insert booklet containing an essay on the film by writer Justine Smith Waters Of Legacy and a second essay by Nicole Cliffe titled Enter The Blue. This disc also comes packaged with some nice reversible cover artwork.

    The Midnight Swim - The Final Word:

    The Midnight Swim is very much a slow burn and it’s a film much more interested in atmosphere and character than shock or set piece, but it’s a really well-made movie worth seeing for anyone who can appreciate mood, tone and the slow but deliberate building of tension. The Blu-ray release from Yellow Veil presents the film in a very nice presentation and with some good extra features as well. Recommended!

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Midnight Swim Blu-ray screen caps!

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