In Carter Smith’s quesy thriller, Ben (Cooper Koch) is a young gay man looking to move out of his town and make something of his life in glamorous Hollywood. On their last last night together, his best friend Dom (Jose Colon) plans to see him off with a parting gift of some serious cash. But to get the money, Dom takes Ben along to a rendezvous with Jenna Malone’s shady drugs fixer. Suddenly Ben and Dom are caught up as mules in a cross-border smuggling operation – and it might not only be drugs that they are forced to swallow.
Smith is best known for his horror The Ruins (2008), which proved he knew a thing or two about cocky young adults getting in over their heads. Swallowed maintains a tight focus on Ben and Dom, and their escalating nightmare, and throws some subtle body horror into the mix too. It’s engrossing, and sometimes gross-out, stuff, and I was rooting for Ben throughout even as Dom’s poor decision-making made me want to see him left at the side of the road very early on – with friends like this, who needs antagonists?
It’s Jenna Malone who walks away with the acting garlands though – she’s ominous, menacing, mysterious and even sometimes sympathetic, doing excellent work that lifts the whole movie. Mark Patton (A Nightmare On Elm Street 2, Scream Queen) give an interesting and unusual portrayal of the crime boss our heroes must face down if they’re to get out of this alive.
While I wish it had gotten rather more gonzo than it did, if you want a solid four-hander thriller with occasional minor-key Cronenberg notes, this is one for you.