Swallowed (2023) Film Review: A Mesmerizing Cinematic Experience

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Swallowed: A Tense Queer Horror Film with Unexpected Depth

Swallowed is an agitating and intense queer horror film that takes viewers on a gripping journey as two childhood best friends, Benjamin and Dom, attempt to smuggle drugs across the Canadian border. Directed by Carter Smith, this gnarly feature is filled with nail-biting moments that will leave audiences on the edge of their seats.

A Last Night Together

The story begins with Benjamin and Dom, who share a close friendship, spending their last night together before Benjamin moves to LA. While Benjamin dreams of pursuing a career as a porn star in the big city, Dom has secretly been in love with him for years. As a going-away present, Dom wants to give Benjamin a substantial amount of cash. However, there’s a catch.

A Risky Task

In order to obtain the money, both Benjamin and Dom must agree to swallow a bunch of drugs and transport them over the border into Canada. Alice, played by Jena Malone, is in charge of the operation, providing strict instructions. Little do Benjamin and Dom know that the seemingly innocent drugs they are ingesting are actually living bugs.

Once the two friends cross the border, their troubles escalate. Dom is viciously attacked by a homophobic redneck at a gas station, leaving him in agonizing pain and fighting for his life. Meanwhile, the drugs they’ve swallowed remain trapped inside their bodies, adding to their distress.

A Personal Story of Queer Friendship

Despite expectations of extreme body horror, Swallowed surprises viewers with its focus on the deep and personal bond between Benjamin and Dom. While moments of distress certainly exist, the heart of the film lies in the friendship these two queer individuals share. Dom’s act of giving Benjamin a goodbye present is his way of finally confessing his love for him.

As the situation becomes increasingly chaotic, Benjamin proves his unwavering support for Dom, even risking his own life to save his friend. Their journey is filled with challenges, but their caring natures and rocky paths make for a truly captivating narrative.

Standout Performances

Cooper Koch delivers an exceptional performance as Benjamin, showcasing his talent once again after his breakout role in John Logan’s They/Them. The inclusion of superb queer horror films like Titane and We’re All Going to the World’s Fair has been welcome in recent years. Swallowed adds to this list by presenting Benjamin as a character who simply wants to pursue his dreams and be himself.

Jena Malone’s portrayal of Alice, the drug dealer orchestrating the operation, further elevates the film. She excels in every scene she graces, proving her versatility as an actress. While Malone has ventured into horror films with previous works like Antebellum and Consecration, it is her role as Mindy in Lovesong that remains a personal favorite for many.

Eerie Atmosphere and Minimal Gore

Swallowed is primarily a horror film that relies on the imagery suggested rather than explicitly shown. The film builds tremendous suspense and anxiety from the start, as the audience contemplates what is happening inside Benjamin and Dom’s bodies once they discover the true nature of the drugs they’ve ingested. While some may anticipate more gore based on the synopsis, Swallowed instead creates an unsettling atmosphere reminiscent of David Cronenberg’s body horror films.

Director Carter Smith’s future projects in the horror genre are eagerly awaited, as Swallowed demonstrates his ability to craft a chilling and thought-provoking narrative.

Availability and Conclusion

Swallowed is now available to watch on VOD. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience this captivating queer horror film that goes beyond the surface-level scares. Director Carter Smith’s interview discussing Swallowed provides further insights into the film’s queer themes and eerie nature.


1. Is Swallowed a traditional horror film?

No, Swallowed takes a unique approach to the horror genre by focusing on the intense friendship between Benjamin and Dom, while incorporating elements of suspense and body horror.

2. Are there explicit and gory scenes in Swallowed?

While Swallowed alludes to unsettling imagery, it primarily creates tension and unease through its atmosphere rather than relying on graphic gore.

3. Can you recommend other queer horror films similar to Swallowed?

Absolutely! In addition to Swallowed, we recommend checking out films like Titane and We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, which explore queer themes within the horror genre with unique storytelling approaches.

4. What other roles has Jena Malone excelled in?

Jena Malone has exhibited her versatility as an actress in various roles across different genres. Apart from her notable performances in horror films, her portrayal of Mindy in Lovesong remains a standout, showcasing her ability to portray both terrifying and endearing characters.

5. Will Swallowed leave a lasting impact on viewers?

Swallowed has the potential to resonate with viewers due to its exploration of deep friendship, queer themes, and the boundaries individuals are willing to push for those they care about.

In conclusion, Swallowed transcends expectations with its tension-filled narrative and heartfelt focus on queer friendship. Director Carter Smith, along with standout performances from Cooper Koch and Jena Malone, deliver a captivating viewing experience. Be prepared for an intense journey that leaves a lasting impression.