Rating: 4 out of 5.

Always on the hunt for more genuinely excellent queer horror, Swallowed entered my crosshairs when I heard the project was directed by Carter Smith; his film The Ruins ranks as a personal favorite. Swallowed carries a unique visual style that also returns in this exciting, intimate yet perverse flick. Unrequited love and the deep bonds of friendship between a porn star and his straight bestie are forced to endure an unthinkable tribulation. I will never quite think of anus smuggling the same way ever again…

The last day for Ben (Cooper Koch) and Dom (Jose Colon) together before Ben moves away to Los Angeles is finally here. On their final day together, Dom has a plan that will net him a big payday to send away his love with a hefty nest-egg. What’s the catch? They meet up with Dom’s cousin’s friend and possibly lover, Alice (Jena Malone, Donnie Darko, The Ruins), who delivers exact instructions by gunpoint. They must swallow small sacs that are twisted up like drugs. Their mission is simple: drop off the drug balls at a rest stop just over the border, careful to keep them at a proper temperature. Once the sacs are “safe and warm,” Ben and Dom will be paid handsomely. Of course, neither of them agree to this willingly. Ben in particular is horrified and helpless as Alice forces them at gunpoint to swallow the sacs one by one. She is careful to add a homophobic dig, saying that Ben “didn’t gag” on the sac he was forced to swallow.

What is inside these mysterious sacs? Let’s just say it is gross, and it makes one’s penis hard for exactly 9 hours. The creature it contains inside seems to hold mysterious powers, but is dangerous and unpredictable. If they hatch inside a host, who knows what could happen? Swallowed does a terrific job at making one truly care about its characters. Ben and Dom are both strong-willed and supportive. Dom is notably upset about Ben’s imminent departure, and Ben’s busy trying to get amped about living his best porn star life in L.A. Before the horror of it all kicks in, Ben and Dom are established as platonic best friends, though highly flirtatious with one another.

For those awaiting a horror element, Swallowed has a few tricks up its sleeve. Some of the content may need a warning, as it is definitely a bit graphic. The forced intimacy has an unnerving but inexplicable quality that left me craving more. Swallowed rests on the shoulders of Ben and Dom’s relationship, and at the end of the day I truly believe it remains emblematic of it from start to finish. A scene-stealing turn from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge lead star and absolute legend Mark Patton is a highlight of the movie’s second half. Patton plays the boss of the sac-smuggling ring who seems to be deeply horny and predatory by nature. When the action eventually morphs into pure survival horror, I knew Swallowed would go down as one of the best in recent memory.

Both leads deliver full frontal nudity to the camera, but the nudity never feels excessive. It is always to serve the story. But if one is here for the gay, the gay is what Carter Smith is here to deliver on a silver sequined platter. One sequence that gives new meaning to “fisting” will haunt me for days. Filmed on location in Maine, Swallowed is a bold reminder that Carter Smith is a force to be reckoned with. All three lead actors are fantastic, with Cooper Koch emerging a bonafide hunky final boy. Low key body horror bliss and high key propulsive thriller, Swallowed gulps down a complete feast.

Swallowed screened at 2022’s Overlook Film Festival.