Directed and written by Carter Smith, Swallowed starts with the last night together of friends Benjamin (Cooper Koch) and Dom (Jose Colon). Benjamin is leaving for California to be a porn star and Don is convinced he’ll forget him and their friendship when he’s gone. To make sure his friend has enough money — he doesn’t trust the porn company who promises to pay for everything — Dom makes a stop to set up a drug run that’ll get his friend some money.

Except that Alice (Jena Malone), who they are to get the shipment from, seems off. The drugs seem weird, having to be kept at a specific temperature. And swallowed, because they need to cross the border to Canada with them. They try to back out, she sticks a gun to their head and the decision has been made.

Whatever is now inside their bodies is making Dom fall into a state of pain mixed with pleasure. The platonic love between two men, gay and straight, is tested in this film and along the way, they deal with deadly situations. And that’s before they meet the dangerous crime boss on the other side of this adventure, playing with snarling menace by Mark Patton.

Shot often in close up, which jams up the tension, director and writer Carter Smith has made a story that can be taken as survival or body horror, depending on the time of the story, but the idea that a drug that might be a living thing going inside — and needing to be pulled outside — of your body is beyond upsetting. This is a movie that really gets into your head and I want Smith to keep making more personal and smaller films like this other than the only of his movies I’ve seen, the mainstream horror movie The Ruins.

This movie was part of the Another Hole in the Head film festival, which provides a unique vehicle for independent cinema. This year’s festival takes place from December 1st – December 18th, 2022. Screenings and performances will take place at the historic Roxie Cinema, 4 Star Theatre and Stage Werks in San Francisco, CA. It will also take place On Demand on Eventive and live on Zoom for those who can not attend the live screenings. You can learn more about how to attend or watch the festival live on their Eventlive site. You can also keep up with all of my AHITH film watches with this Letterboxd list.

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