From co-creators and executive producers Janine Nabers and Donald Glover, “Swarm” follows Dre (Dominique Fishback), an obsessed fan of the world’s biggest pop star who sets off on an unexpected cross-country journey. The series premiered its first two episodes at the SXSW 2023 Film Festival, which I was fortunate enough to attend and thoroughly enjoyed.
But is “Swarm” scary?
If you’re reading this “Swarm” review, it’s probably because you hate all things horror, and you’re a scaredy cat … just like me. And that’s cool … I get it! So the real question of the day is: “Is “Swarm” scary? Like ACTUALLY scary? Or can my Black ass actually sit through this thang without shitting bricks? Every time a Black creator releases a horror or thriller … I cringe because I know I need to watch it (for the culture — and to review), but I hate them. And not because I just “hate” them, but because I’m a big ass scaredy cat!
What I really hate is:
- the sight of blood
- seeing or hearing bones breaking
- being startled (aka jumping up outta my seat like I forgot the damn stove on)
- extreme violence (think repeatedly stabbing someone as if they ain’t already dead)
- racial incidents that’s sure to trigger any Black person
- watching kids get hurt
And probably a ton of other shit!
But since it’s my duty to you, the culture (and myself) to review Black films all year round, I’m trying to make peace with the fact that this includes horror and thriller!
So Here’s A Quick Review Of “Swarm” For Scaredy Cats
Is “Swarm” Scary?
After finishing “Swarm” on Prime Video, I realized that while it’s a whole f*cking lot, it’s actually not scary at all! And yes, I too think that’s weird. But it’s not meant to be a horror story. It’s actually a psychological thriller, about real life events (and internet rumors), so I think the interesting and intriguing outweighs the scare factor in this one.
But if you don’t like horror there are a few things to watch out for.
What actually bothered me:
Don’t laugh when I say this, but nothing actually bothered me while watching this. I don’t know if that’s because it’s extremely fascinating to watch Dominique Fishback switch back and forth from a sweet (but weird), lovable child to a psychotic serial killer.
Or if it’s because the serial killer in this series is a Black girl, and feels less threatening than say — a white adult male, like so many other series are based on, including my fave Netflix serial killer series “You“. However — the elements of horror that I hate are present, but they just don’t hit hard enough to actually scare me into skipping them. And I like it that way.
The same way we think Jordan Peele films are more intriguing than scary, is exactly how many will react to “Swarm”.
What you need to know before watching “Swarm” if you absolutely hate horror:
If you have melissophobia, or apiphobia …
Aka the fear of bees, beware! While we rarely ever see them, we do hear the bees often.
And yes, it’s a nod to the “Beyhive” as you’ll see while watching, so hopefully they’ll make you think of Beyoncé instead of actual bees?
Other things to watch out for:
- the sight of blood (and lots of it) — there’s even a scene with Dre mopping up blood like you’ll see in the trailer, or in my TikTok recap video of the SXSW x Swarm Mini Mart event
- being startled — you’ll know what’s coming before it happens, so that takes most of the scare out of these scenes, but there’s a bit of suspense that could scare you
- there’s a cop scene — where Dre gets stopped, and yes the cop is white and stalker-ish, so that could trigger some trauma if you’ve got any (from your own experience or even just the news)
- the kills are violent, and repetitive (meaning she stabs/hits again and again) but you can fast forward a tad if it bothers you (it didn’t feel intense as most kill scenes do so it didn’t bother me)
- suicide is mentioned, but we don’t see the act being committed
- if white girl cults make you uneasy, then you’ve been warned
- while the cop scene doesn’t have any shooting involved, there is a shotgun pointed and shot at Dre to harm her (thankfully not from anyone white)
Do I recommend watching “Swarm” even if you hate horror?
Like I said, it’s insane, but it’s only 7 short episodes. (They’re about 30 mins long each.) So it’s easy to binge over the weekend, and then watch a few Abbott Elementary episodes right after, if that’s what you’ll need to sleep better at night. But I didn’t need to watch anything funny afterwards to calm down.
The series really isn’t that deep.
It’s just cute commentary on how stan fans take shit way too damn far, and how the stan culture can hurt others. It’s also cool to see a Black woman take up space in a realm we don’t often see them in. And Dominque’s an incredible actress, so the series is worth watching for just her alone!
Plus there’s that sex scene that everyone keeps talking about? So I guess you could also watch it for that, although it’s so much more than a sex scene.
Now Here’s A Few Tips To Get Through “Swarm” If You Plan On Watching It (And You Hate Horror)
- Turn yo muhfudging sound down bruh! Horror thrives on sound!
- Keep the lights on. Why in the world would you watch this in the dark? Candles, something!
- Watch this at home! That way you can control your surroundings.
- Fast forward if needed. You don’t need to watch how everyone is killed to follow the story.
- Watch with a friend. Thrillers and horror stories are easier to stomach, when you’re not watching alone.
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