To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Appendage is a horror film written, directed, and produced by Anna Zlokovic (Sienna Byrd) in her feature-length directorial debut. Featuring Hadley Robinson, Kausar Mohammed, Brandon Mychal Smith, and Emily Hampshire; Appendage is a feature-length adaptation of Zlokovic’s short film of the same name. The story follows Hannah, a young fashion designer secretly struggling with debilitating self-doubt. Soon her buried feelings physically emerge as a talking growth on her body.
At her parents’ house, Hannah (Hadley Robinson) enjoys dinner, wine, and light conversations. After a big gulp of wine, Hannah’s mother pulls the glass away from her and tells her not to embarrass herself. The comment noticeably bothers Hannah who begins to feel a pain throbbing at her waist. The throbbing recedes and Hannah finishes dinner questioning what was happening.
Later at her home, Hannah sews a dress at 2:00 am pricking her finger on a needle in the process. Her boyfriend Kaelin (Brandon Mychal Smith) states how late it is and beckons her to come to bed to which she obliges. The next morning they have sex in the shower and Kaelin makes Hannah pancakes and bacon for breakfast. In the kitchen, Hannah receives a text message from her boss causing her side to throb in pain again. Kaelin asks if she is okay and tells her to rest. Hannah tells him that she is fine. She kisses and decides to leave before breakfast is finished and playfully advises him to lock up before he goes.
I have always been a big fan of horror. Growing up two of my favorite shows were Goosebumps and Are you Afraid of the Dark? As an adult, horror anthologies like American Horror Story and The Twilight Zone also piqued my interest. I even do a JanuScary Special every year for my website. Needless to say, I do not need to be forced to watch anything scary. Also, with streaming, there are more options for horror than there have ever been. Sadly, I would not always consider that a good thing.
The short film version of Appendage was featured as an episode during the second season of Bite Size Halloween. Barely lasting over five minutes the story followed a young fashion designer named Bella who forms a talking growth on her side that spouts her insecurities out loud. She eventually removes the growth and gains new confidence from the ordeal. Even though a smaller growth does return, she seems to keep it in check. I believe that there is a solid message in this film about turning your insecurities into strengths, but that alone does not make for a great movie.
While I can praise the creature design and give the cast an A for effort, stretching this story out into an hour-and-a-half film didn’t work for me. There is only so much padding you can add to make it into a movie and if this is something Zlokovic wanted to try then someone else should have helped with the writing. There are issues with the screenplay that could have used a little more polish. There is an entire plot thread involving other “appendages” that is dropped inexplicably by the end of the film leaving some loose ends. Hannah’s issues with her parents and her feeling like she’s not seen don’t quite add up either as they seem to be very loving throughout the movie. Seeing that made it hard for me to side with Hannah when she gets into arguments with them. The mental health angle is a great way to form a horror story. Many people can relate to feeling the way Hannah does, but within that framing Zlokovic pushes the horror to the side.
The worst thing about Appendage is that overall, it looks cheaply made. The lighting is poor throughout with everything looking extremely bright and oversaturated. The same sets are used multiple times and dialogue is cheesy. The plot is also very predictable with the twist becoming evident early on. I understand a streaming movie being given a smaller budget than a feature film, but this looked even cheaper than some television shows I have watched. Clearly, this project was put into production just to add more content to the Hulu library.
With a lackluster story and a cheap aesthetic, viewers would be better off watching the short. I give Appendage a Bad 4/10. Instead of a movie, I could see this working as a 30-45 minute episode of American Horror Stories. At least they would have a decent budget to work with. If you want a little taste of what the film is like you can check out the original short film below.