Horror is in again, you heard it here first. Though it never went out of style per se, the genre has historically seen peaks and valleys. It is currently reaching a crescendo now thanks to the massive box office success of films like Scream, M3GAN and the surprise indie hit Skinamarink.
The one thing those three films had in common was their queer element. They were either made by, featured or heavily appealed to LGBTQ+ audiences, a fact that producers and filmmakers seem to be well aware of.
In fact, queer horror is one of the biggest sub-genres being explored by filmmakers in the genre right now. Explicitly queer horror movies and original horror, like Barbarian are pulling in audiences in record numbers and Swallowed, just released to VOD and digital, combines both elements.
Written and directed by queer filmmaker Carter Smith of All The Dead Boys, Swallowed is described by Momentum Pictures, the distributor, as “a nightmarish ordeal of drugs, bugs and horrific intimacy in this backwoods body-horror thriller”.
It is more than that of course. In terms of horror elements, it is definitively ‘body horror’ but it also has elements of science fiction and even revenge horror. The director is clearly a great lover of the genre as he seamlessly intertwines those elements along with some beloved but queerified horror tropes such as staging the action at a fabulously decorated and well stocked cabin in the woods and a good amount of nudity. However, this time around it’s the boys that get naked and not the ‘unassuming female victims’ as so many horror films of the 70’s and 80’s featured.
The scenes involving body horror and violence are also very grounded in queerness. For the body horror, you’ll have to take my word on it in order to avoid spoilers but there’s one scene of violence towards the end that has just the right amount of campiness to it so as to not derail the intensity. There is also, at least for me, a very distinctive nod to the cult camp classic Showgirls in the film which delighted me to no end.
The central love story between Benjamin and his straight best friend Dom is palpable, believable and something that will feel very relatable to many gay men. The performances from openly gay actor Cooper Koch (They/Them) and newcomer Jose Colon, respectively, were powerful and nuanced. Queer actress Jena Malone (Stepmom, Contact, The Hunger Games) as Alice did a great job of making you hate her, then love her and the casting of queer horror royalty Mark Patton (Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge) as Rich was a stroke of genius.
All things considered, Swallowed was a wild ride and a most welcomed addition into to the ever-growing family of queer horror films. Given the body horror, it is not for the squeamish or easily disturbed, so proceed with caution, but definitely give it a watch!