An exploration of modern fandom culture, Swarm tells the story of Dre (Dominique Fishback), a young woman obsessed with pop star Ni’Jah (Nirine S Brown), who is based heavily on Beyoncé. Something of an outcast, Dre finds solace in her love of Ni’Jah’s music, but after a series of traumatic events, her obsession takes a turn for the violent and bloody.
As can be expected from the premise, Swarm is primarily an examination of “stan culture”, taking the idea of the obsessive fan to a grisly and horrific extreme. However, one of the show’s failings is that this analysis can feel somewhat surface-level at times, falling short of really deconstructing and dissecting the concepts it explores.
Dre’s downward spiral into a parasocial nightmare is still fairly gripping, but sometimes Swarm feels like a bit of a one-trick pony, and some more thorough interrogation of the ways that online communities cultivate obsession and toxicity could have really challenged its audience and ramped up the scare factor in some interesting ways.
Where the script sometimes falters, other parts of the production, such as the cinematography and sound design, manage to pick things up. The camera work is striking and vivid, working with Swarm’s punchy soundtrack to accentuate the horror in the mundane, represent Dre’s fraying mental state and imbue her antics with a gruesome but slick sense of style.
The cast all put in fantastic performances too: Fishback steals the show as Dre with an emotional range going from heart-wrenching to blood-curdling, elevating Dre’s complex character arc considerably. Also of note is Billie Eilish, who shows some great acting chops outside of her normal wheelhouse as Eva, a charismatic cult leader who takes Dre in under her wing.
Overall, Swarm is a series with a lot to like, with stellar performances and a very ominous and engaging atmosphere throughout. Its writing is also decent, with solid character work and some great comedy, but it just falls short of being a truly incisive satirical stab at modern fandoms – its interrogation of “stans” go as far as it needs to in order to facilitate some bloody dispatches but no further. Still, it’s an entertaining enough watch, and though the writing sometimes squanders its storytelling potential, its core narrative still manages to be fairly satisfying.
Swarm is released on Prime Video on 17th March 2023.
Watch the trailer for Swarm here: