In Wes Craven’s classic meta-slasher Scream Video store nerd Randy compiles a list of horror movie rules everyone should know lest they end up living in something that looks like a horror movie. I believe, for example, that the words “tits” and “legits” are rhymed at some point. But Randy, bless his little patchy goat hair, forgot the most important rule of all horror movies when he stated said horror movie rules – you never, and I mean never, will, go to a second place with Jena Malone. Think about that poor adorable dork-king Donnie Darko, his individuality snuck through a Jena Malone-made wormhole and wept. And that was just the beginning! How many lives would have been saved if we had all received this simple little behavioral advice sooner? Literally hundreds, maybe thousands – that blood is on you, Randy.
The latest scary movie to test my Malone theory and draw a middle case of positives is Carter Smith’s new queer creep-a-thon. Swallowedwhich just screened at Fantasia. Swallowed its characters not only go to a second place to meet Jena Malone, but also to a third and finally a fourth! And yes, at this point, we’re firmly in “give up all hope, you who enter here” territory – no destruction has ever felt so firmly assured since Brad Pitt thought hiding in a closet in a movie from the Coens brothers was a great idea.
In Swallowed, Jena Malone plays a character named “Alice,” which seems to me to indicate that the filmmakers were acutely aware of the mortifying rabbit holes that this actress tends to suck everyone near her into. Indeed, the last time director Smith worked with Malone, the actress gave one of my favorite performances with The ruins, the nightmarish 2017 film that saw a group of Americans overseas foolishly stumble over a pile of cursed vines. There, Malone played snappy and edgy, which felt like a big departure for the ever-assured-looking actress – here, her “Alice” is more in her wheelhouse. That means she pointed a gun in the face of several people before she even passed the “five minutes of screen time” mark. Ahhh, this is the Jena we know and fear!
Alice, you see, is a mid-level drug dealer who recruited our lead characters from Benjamin (Cooper Koch, who makes quite a career as a scream queen with himself as he also co-stars in Peacock’s They they this week) and Dom (Jose Colon) to deepthroat and drug some condom balls full of mysterious narcotics across the border. (This is where the film’s gay-pun-happy title appears.) This really bad idea starts off as Dom’s really bad idea, although it has altruistic notions – he just wants to make a quick buck to help his friend Benjamin, who heads to Los Angeles the next day to fulfill his dream of becoming a gay porn star. Benjamin is openly and proudly gay, but clearly also a little weak, as he has no idea what is obvious to Alice and to any of us watching these two – that Dom is head over heels in love with his friend. , and twice as sorry that Benjamin left before he could do anything.
Swallowed leaves an open question, how this mishap from the last night together is supposed to be Dom’s self-destructive cry of attention to Benji, but it doesn’t matter once Alice shows up with her neon green fingernails flashing as a warning signs that the boys stupidly continue to miss. They’re so caught up in their own private drama that they can’t see the forest for the nails, and it’s all so far past the shitty creek by the time they realize how fucked up they are, they might as well get proclaim queer kings of shit Mountain.
I’m not getting all this “shitty” talk out of my you-know-where. What goes in must inevitably come out, and those dodgy little packets that Jena Malone force-fed the boys come back, with heartbreaking insistence, to haunt everyone, including you and your nightmares. If you’ve ever had a chance to see Smith’s 2006 queer-horror-classic short insect crush then you might get an idea of where Smith is about to run with things, but I have no desire to spoil the shocks of this plot if you haven’t. I think it’s safe and spoiler-free to say it’s not good! And Swallowed make you squirm in your seat and more. Smith, scanning a fundamental page of The Cronenberg Book, knows that blending sexuality with horror is a surefire fast pass straight to the city of internal conflict – this film aims to confuse our input receptors, turn our instincts against we. It’s exciting and horrifying in equal measure.
To top it off, Jena Malone isn’t even the worst villain Swallowed has in store. As I said above, she is strictly mid-level, she has a boss herself. And when the you-know-what starts hitting the you-know-where, the boss comes running. Played by A Nightmare on Elm Street II: Freddy’s Revenge star Mark Patton, whose life after this queer camp classic was recently portrayed in the ace documentary Scream, queen, I’m not kidding when I say he’s giving what is sure to be one of my favorite performances of 2022 here. to the lost soul – or as he cries at one point, “the bad queen” – which will be instantly familiar to any gay person anywhere. And the second he walks into the room, every gay man who’s lived five days outside of a major metropolitan area will see the train coming, right in our face.
Maybe straight people will recognize this guy too, but Patton’s character is the kind of baseball insider specificity that we gay people dream of when we say that “Hey, maybe actors and directors gays can tell gay stories from time to time.” This is basically me saying I wouldn’t have been comfortable at all with a straight actor playing this role that way right now, as Patton spreads all sorts of our secret filth on this horror of a To be human. It’s fascinating, terrifying, cruelly funny and pathetic. There’s clearly a hint of “Joe Exotic” from tiger king to him, but only probed for his sadism – Patton gives full-bodied life atop the curdled queerness we run from when we flee small-minded towns. The worst instincts we can see growing in our flesh when failure and our particular kind of loneliness sets in. And it’s electric – every flamboyant mannerism, every shrill scream. It’s a fearless horror movie performance that fuels fear for the ages.
Dane Cook is engaged |
Image sources (in order of publication): Witchcraft Film Society,