Review by Sean Boelman
A darkly comedic thriller with a satirical edge, writer-director Carlo Mirabella-Davis’s new film Swallow is arguably one of the finest genre pictures to come out in recent memory. Thanks to a bizarre premise explored to its fullest, this is the satisfyingly discomforting movie for which horror fans have been waiting.
The film follows a newly-pregnant housewife who finds herself compelled to swallow dangerous objects. Mirabella-Davis’s script is relentlessly unpredictable and original, keeping the viewer on their toes for the entirety of the runtime. Feeling like a refreshing blend of The Stepford Wives and classic body horror, this movie certainly doesn’t adhere to the constraints of a single genre.
It really is unfortunate that this film is coming out around the same time as another (also great) exploration of toxic relationships in the form of a horror movie, but this film takes a few more risks than its studio counterpart. Some very dark turns are taken throughout the movie, and the result is endlessly intriguing.
However, despite the often disturbing nature of the film, Mirabella-Davis always handles it with a sense of humor. The movie acknowledges the absurdity inherent in the premise and runs with it, leaving the audience with a nervous laughter. That said, once the film becomes much more serious, it works just as well.
The main force that grounds this movie is its excellent character development. In the film, the only character that feels realistic is the protagonist, although that seems very purposeful. By creating this world around her that seems even more off-putting and bizarre than the character’s actions, Mirabella-Davis attaches the viewer to the character in an even stronger way.
To further build this surreal world, Mirabella-Davis uses nightmarishly colorful visuals that seem drawn straight out of dystopian sci-fi. Even though the movie is very much set in the modern day, it feels like it takes place in an alternate reality that has trapped the protagonist. Because of excellent cinematography and production design, the audience will almost certainly feel trapped right along with her.
Haley Bennett, who until this point has been known mostly for supporting roles, gives a very memorable performance as the lead. It’s nice to get to see her do something more substantial rather than just serving as eye candy. The range of emotions that she is able to convey with her mannerisms never ceases to impress, from the smallest mouth movement to full-on convulsions.
Swallow is admittedly not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but its surreal and thought-provoking look at its themes will likely lead it to amass a cult following over time. Carlo Mirabella-Davis is certainly a talent to watch in the genre.
Swallow hits theaters and VOD on March 6.