Hunter (Haley Bennett) and Richie (Austin Stowell) are newlyweds. Hunter has married into a rich family and although she can’t quite put her finger on it, Richie’s parents, Katherine (Elizabeth Marvel) and Michael (David Rasche) have a certain way of using microaggressions to make her feel unwelcome and that their son could have done better.
On top of that Richie doesn’t seem to notice or maybe doesn’t even care about how they treat her and even he has ways to make Hunter feel unappreciated. Overall, her new family have many subtle ways to make Hunter feel worthless when all she wants to do is to make them happy. Then one day Hunter has a sudden urge to swallow a marble, just to see what happens and this makes her feel powerful, so she decides to keep going.
Swallow is a psychological horror and solo directorial debut of writer/director Carlo Mirabella-Davis and despite its initial premise which some audiences may think is put there for shock value, Mirabella-Davis’ film has a lot more to say.
As Hunter feels a release at finally being able to do something on her own terms and to have the consequences of her actions be something she can control – she becomes pregnant. However, her addiction is slowly taking hold and although she has to think about what may happen for her future and her baby, the pressure from her in-laws and her husband is greater than ever.
Bennett’s portrayal of a housewife who’s feeling the stranglehold of family life is quietly nuanced and enthralling to watch as the audience can sense the bubbling rage under her demure persona as she desperately tries to make other people happy.
The need for Hunter to break out and find herself when her life is quite literally choking her is captivating, heart-breaking and at times difficult to watch as the audience wills Hunter to escape her impossible situation. Yet Bennett still manages to keep the composure of somebody who has always felt a little damaged and whose life is at breaking point even if she doesn’t realise it herself.
Swallow talks about so many different things that it’s hard to unpack here, but there are themes of mental health, pregnancy and the pressures of what are put upon women by society to keep calm and carry on when all they want to do is scream.
Swallow is indeed a terrifying horror movie, but one that says more about everyday life reminding the audience that the scariest things can be in our own minds.
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