It’s disheartening to see a small-time, relatively low-budget film not warm the cockles in some sort of charming underdog way, but Swallowed wholly fails to do so. Unfortunately, Carter Smith’s work of gay body horror has little going for it, lacking the elements of conceivability required by freaky films to pack that disturbing punch.
Two lifelong friends, Benjamin (Cooper Koch) and Dom (Jose Colon), are dragged into a drug run that goes awry, leading to a stomach-turning series of events that tests their relationship a great deal further than ever before. It is unimaginatively put together, and the fact it feels slow, despite its modest length, suggests quite a lot about how much of interest actually takes place. Grossness, particularly, is dwelt upon both visually and sonically at unusual length. This is a piece that should come with a squelch warning.
The movie’s great void is an absence of soul to any of the half a dozen characters. Poor writing and substandard performances combine to generate this effect. Arch-baddie Rich (Mark Patton) is especially unconvincing; a caricature of villainy with lines that are cartoonishly on the nose, he fails to disgust in any real way.
Plot and character emptiness aside, this picture is decently shot with a hint of creativity in that respect. Moods are effectively conjured through establishing passages, a grey eeriness that would engage were it not invariably scuppered by flatly delivered dialogue. What glimpses of promise the film has are so thoroughly tucked away amid the disappointments, it’s hard to keep a handle on them.
Swallowed wants to be real, weird, edgy and unnerving in a new and enthralling way, but the result is baffling and uninvolving. It sports moments of creative spark, but it does not engage the viewer enough to stick around and pinpoint them.
Swallowed is released digitally on demand on 24th April 2023.
Watch the trailer for Swallowed here: