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[Overlook] ‘Swallowed’ review: Queer body horror is intimate and disgusting

Buggin’ out.

Swallowed is the story of two childhood friends who are spending their last night together. Benjamin (Cooper Koch) is headed to Los Angeles to begin his career as a gay pornstar. Dom (Jose Colon) wants to send his best friend off with a pocketful of cash. In order to do that, he just needs to make one delivery. He soon finds out, this is easier said than done.

The chemistry between Koch and Colon is evident from the earliest moments. The pair do a great job of playing off each other and give off the vibe of being lifelong friends. There is genuine concern and love for each other. Jena Malone is also great as the drug trafficker named Alice who refuses to take no for an answer. She is an intense character who literally drives parts of Swallowed. Her sudden change in attitude seems a little unearned, however.

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The body horror aspects of Swallowed are worked into the story. Writer-director Carter Smith (who worked with Malone on 2008’s The Ruins) does a great job of steadily increasing the horror. The film gets increasingly disgusting, leading up to tense scenes involving Vaseline and bugs. It is all very disgusting but not what one expects when they think of this type of horror. There is nothing that is reminiscent of David Cronenberg. It is a subtle body horror – if there is such a thing.

[Overlook] 'Swallowed' review: Queer body horror is intimate and disgusting

Swallowed changes directions about halfway through. The tension filled horror is replaced with a thriller that is all about escaping capture. It is a complete tonal shift that includes Mark Patton chewing up the scenery. This leads to the removal of all the intimacy from earlier. The danger is more obvious while immediate danger replaces mysterious scares. Swallowed still manages to tell its story of a young man growing, however. 

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