The Ruins Director Returns To His Roots With New Stomach Churning Body Horror
By Amber Glavin
Director Carter Smith (The Ruins) is back to bring audiences along on two friends final night together. What was supposed to be a quick drug run for cash takes a grisly turn into a horrifying evening involving creeping drugs, guns, and gruesome intimate violations. All The Dead Boys productions, Witchcraft Motion Picture Company, and Leroi drop Swallowed onto digital and Amazon Video starting February 14th, 2023. Smith, who is no stranger to a small cast and stomach churning, don’t eat before you watch scenes with organic horror, does what he does best in Swallowed. With an intentional eye for cinematography, and a knack for authentic, bold storytelling, Carter Smith presents a backcountry, visceral horror film that is especially full of passion, and revenge.
A Drug Run Gone Disgustingly Bad
Swallowed opens in a setting most viewers know well, the local bar. Dom is recording his friend, Benjamin, with his obvious star quality as he dances and flirts with the phone camera. Audiences are clued in that these two are lifelong best friends as Benjamin can immediately sense that something is up with Dom. Instead of joining in, Dom is occupied with his phone and a mysterious number that keeps calling. This being their last night together before Benjamin jets off to LA to begin his adult film career, he wants to spend it with Dom, dancing the night away at their local spot. Even distracted, Dom continues to encourage Benjamin that LA is going to go nuts over him and that he has a promising road ahead of him. Their sweet banter establishes that these two have a strong bond that goes beyond a normal friendship. Unable to ignore the secret phone calls anymore, Dom surprises Benjamin with what he calls a going-away present. A hefty sum of cash to get him started on the right foot.
With its quick 92-minute runtime, Swallowed wastes no time in revealing that, Dom intends on getting this cash through an unassuming, quick, drug run. Once at the spot, the film amps up the tension. Viewers clearly know what is going on, but enough details are kept under wraps to worry even the most seasoned moviegoer. Dom’s contact, Alice, is forceful and blunt but ominously passive. Keeping a big secret to herself in order to disguise the nefarious origin of the cargo the friends are transporting across the border. Christopher Bear, in charge of the score, expertly moves the film along, choosing just the right moments to magnify the friend’s urgency and tension. While also dropping out the synthesized score completely for the pair’s more intimate moments of vulnerable and honest communication. Benjamin’s character gives a voice to the burning questions the audience has during the film. His extroverted nature asks all the right questions, and even though he’s met with silence, it is a welcome breath of fresh air to have a character standing up and pointing out just how problematic a situation is.
Deliberate POV shots and a lingering camera, run by Alexander W. Lewis, magnify the danger that Dom and Benjamin find themselves in as the original plan goes south. Viewers may find the scattered, warm talks between Benjamin and Dom distracting from the usual wanted action of horror thrillers. On the other hand, these cherished moments take just the right amount of time, offer a welcome reprieve, and give an updated and beautiful look into a LGBTQ+ relationship that perhaps has always been there but is just now starting to blossom. Swallowed will have audiences grimacing as it turns up the gross factor, with most of the friends’ troubles taking place in the grimiest places. A tone of despair, urgency, and secrets loom as the trio of Dom, Benjamin, and Alice, as they are all just trying to get what they came for and get to their next destination.
A Small Cast Packs A Powerful Punch
Carter Smith reunites with one of his own in Jena Malone, who played Amy in The Ruins. Malone, once again, displays her indie goddess prowess as the cutting, and get-the-job-done Alice, Dom’s contact for the drug run. She displays a commanding demeanor, yet is guarded, keeping certain details close to the chest. Even wielding a gun and giving Dom and Benjamin no choice throughout the film. She does let some compassion slip through the cracks, attempting to achieve the goal, and avoid any mishaps in the process. Coming off of a stellar performance as Stu, in They/Them, Cooper Koch stars as the more extroverted of the pair, Benjamin. He has the hopeful heart of a guy who knows he’s destined for more and needs to go to LA, the place of broken dreams, to do it. While excited about his new venture, deep down, he has some insecurities, as most LA hopefuls, if he will really make it. Cooper fantastically plays Benjamin as a strong, passionate, and layered friend just trying to get through the night with him and Dom intact.
While Swallowed does include a reunion with cast members, it also includes a debut! Jose Colon spectacularly plays Dom, an introvert to Benjamin’s extrovert but never lacking in authenticity, strength, and passion. Even when things turn grim, Colon moves forward, wanting to do all he can to get Benjamin set up for a life-changing run at his new life in Los Angeles. Jose has some of the more difficult to watch and physically challenging moments in the film, and he approaches it with no holds barred and with the chops of someone who’s been doing this a long time. This trio balances the film out well and creates an experience so authentic and uncompromising that viewers feel like they are being dragged along this chaotic evening too. Ended hauntingly by an eccentric and dread-filled performance from Mark Patton, Swallowed proves you don’t need a large cast to pack a movie with paranoia.
A More Desperate Fear
Instead of shying away from the damage done by the disgusting and squelching sound design in the film, director Carter Smith drops the viewer right next to the devastating physical and emotional horrors as they’re happening and leaves them there. Almost void of jump scares, Swallowed goes for a more desolate atmosphere. Audiences are joining the trio on their harrowing journey whether they like it or not. The characters are truly left in their situation with no way out. The painful and truly repulsive acts Benjamin, Dom, and Alice find themselves in are far more effective at eliciting a response from audiences than any jump scare. These moments will sit with viewers and not crawl out of their minds, long after the credits roll. Especially in its third act as Swallowed subjects its viewers to over 45 minutes of top-tier squirming and dread as to what the character’s fate is going to be.
New Body Horror Cult Favorite
Fans of The Ruins will appreciate what Carter Smith is presenting with Swallowed. Its fast-paced runtime, in-your-face horrors, and moments for passionate views of love, create a tightly packaged and chaotic experience for seasoned horror lovers. Newbies to the genre may want to skip lunch before viewing. Whatever the kind of audience member, both should stay tuned during the credits to see a well-earned and fantastic payoff. Swallowed is currently able to be viewed on digital and Amazon Video to rent or buy.
Swallowed (2023) Official All The Dead Boys Trailer
|Amber is a writer and co-editor for Dead Talk News. Between writing reviews and the latest trailer releases, Amber keeps four tiny humans alive at home. She has previously written for Giant Freakin Robot and will keep going to see every new horror film, no matter what the other moms think.|