SWALLOWED review by Steve Kirkham

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SWALLOWED (2022)

3 stars

Blue Finch Film Releasing. Digital download 24 April

Dom (Jose Colon) and Benjamin (Cooper Koch) are best buddies (though feelings run deeper for one of them). They are having one last night together before pretty boy Ben leaves town to go to Los Angeles to star in gay porn movies. On the way home from the bar Dom wants to make a slight detour — in order to score some quick cash for his friend, they visit dealer Alice (Jena Malone) to do a drug run. To facilitate this Dom has to swallow the goods and then do the necessary at the other end! Reluctantly he agrees and of course we know things aren’t going to go to plan.

When they make a toilet stop, a redneck homophobe picks a fight and a hit to the stomach opens up one of the ingested baggies and the duo discover just what was inside them… wriggly bugs that folks use to get high. Soon Dom is writhing and sweating as the internal insects begin to take affect. What can Ben do to save his friend? Alice turns up to protect her investment and takes them to her boss’ place to try and get the bug drugs back out — her employer Rich (Mark Patton) isn’t exactly pleased about the turn of events.

Swallowed is being sold as a queer horror, which it fundamentally is, but at it’s most basic it is a story of unrequited love with horror overtones, where the main characters just happen to be two men. Well acted by all concerned, with Malone a standout as the scary, take no prisoners, doesn’t give a shit dealer and late in the proceedings Patton is clearly relishing his over the top role.

An expansion of Bugcrush, a short from 2006 made by writer/director Carter Smith, who here manages to ratchet up the tension, with tight framing and a squarish ratio, in this mainly dialogue driven outing. Whilst this is not a particularly pleasant watch, the pace is a little too slow and the film doesn’t fully exploit the potential that the central idea offers, leading to a slightly disappointing denouement — missing out on the possibility of going full-on body horror.