Film Notes

FrightFest review – Swallowed

FrightFest review – Swallowed

Handsome young man Benjamin (Cooper Koch) is about to leave his backwater home town for Los Angeles – and a new career as a gay porn star.  Dom (Jose Colon), his notionally straight best friend, wants to give him some fast cash to make his landing in the big city easier … and agrees to a quick interstate drug run.  Only Alice (Jena Malone), the sketchy connection, insists both Dom and Benjamin swallow condom-wrapped packages rather than just stash the stuff in a cooler.  Once the parcels have gone down, it emerges that they are weirder – in a Cronenbergian sort of way, designed by FX guy Dan Martin – than just lumps of heroin or cocaine.

The simple run, of course, isn’t so simple – in the rural rest stop where the guys are supposed to pass the packages, a homophobic redneck thug (Michael Shawn Curtis) gut-punches Dom, with agonising effects.  Then, as the whole thing threatens to go ever further south, Alice takes the guys and the gear to her brother, an eccentric and queenly cabin-dweller who’s mastermind of the whole scheme.  Mark Patton, a queer horror icon thanks to A Nightmare on Elm St Part II, turns up as the weaselly, flirty, murdery boss – and the second half of the film is an extended suspense scene that’s also a parody of porn, with inexplicit rectal rooting (for the wriggling packages) and power play muscle-flexing.

Writer-director Carter Smith, a long way from his mainstream horror debut The Ruins (and even his ghost story Jamie Marks is Dead), slightly downplays the most fantastical element of his premise – for all the effect it has on the story, those packages might as well be regular drugs – but manages suspense and character stuff well.  Koch and Patton especially get meaty material to play with.  Smith goes with academy frame, all the better to confine characters in bad situations.

Here’s the FrightFest listing.




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