Film reviews: “Swallowed” (Overlook Film Festival)

LGBTQ horror is having a solid year, since the success of the film festival in Hypochondriac to Kevin Bacon’s next vehicle They they at this month’s resurrected release of the cult 2010 film all about evil. Writer/director Carter Smith (The ruins) offers a squirm-inducing entry into the subgenre with Swallowedwhich uses both body horror and survival horror in its harrowing tale of plans gone wrong between two friends.

Benjamin (Cooper Koch) is celebrating his last night on the town before moving to Los Angeles to become a gay porn actor. His straight best friend Dom (Jose Colon) is concerned about Benjamin’s future, so he has a plan to earn some quick cash for his pal. What Dom believes to be a simple drug run turns out to be much worse than that, as the pair are held at gunpoint by Alice (Jena Malone) and forced to swallow bags of illicit goods. When they go to a specified rest area to eliminate the bags, things go terribly wrong, including Dom eliminating one that appears to be moving.

It’s not the worst, however, as Dom grows increasingly ill and Alice brings the couple to the house away from the dealer kingpin (Mark Patton of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge; Scream, queen! My nightmare on Elm Streetand Family assets). This is where the story takes some somewhat convenient turns as it shifts from body horror to survival horror, with the thriller elements of the first act having now given way to sexual predator territory.

Koch and Colon give great performances in their setup as longtime friends, then Malone bursts onto the stage in a fiery performance before Patton arrives with a scene-stealing performance as the decidedly creepy villain. Koch and Patton play off each other beautifully, with the former delivering a protagonist performance that viewers can easily get invested in.

Lots of scary food on tap, but little blood. Fret not, though, as Smith delivers body horror scenes not for the faint of heart and plenty of suspense to keep viewers glued to the screen.

Swallowed screened as part of the Overlook Film Festival, which took place June 2-5, 2022 in New Orleans.

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