SXSW: World Premiere
Title: Appendage (2023) Director: Anna Zlokovic Writer: Anna Zlokovic Studio: 20th Digital Studio IMDb Plot: A young fashion designer's life spirals as her darkest inner thoughts manifest into something gruesome - that won't stop growing. Joe Says: Featuring a Freddy Krueger-lite demonoid, an innocent blonde-in-distress, and a telegraphed-yet-still-enjoyable twist, Appendage has the nostalgic charm of a late-eighties direct-release video. Appendage wants to be essential, and has heart, but really equates to nothing more than a spleen.
Writer/director Anna Zlokovic’s full-length horror spectacle mixes the standard metaphors of acceptance and self-doubt into a bloody-good creature feature, minus the conspicuousness of blood. Featuring a Freddy Krueger-lite demonoid, an innocent blonde-in-distress, and a telegraphed-yet-still-enjoyable twist, Appendage has the nostalgic charm of a late-eighties direct-release video yet presents as vitally fresh.
Hannah (Hadley Robinson) is caught up in that New York state of mind. She wants to make it in the big city and succeed in her big dreams in a story set on the fringes of the fashion world; dotcom start-ups are now way too passé. Alongside her bestie Esther (Kausar Mohammed), Hannah suffers under the tutelage of a primo uomo. She tries to warm up with her new bo’, Kaelin (Brandon Mychal Smith) and his batter-ific pancakes. Confusion reigns in her young life but instead of heaving into a full-blown panic attack, Hannah transforms. She has an (wait for it)… appendage growing on, and out of, her left side. This darkness emerges within and without. The meek and quiet designer soon parts her hair, puts on leather, and becomes loud.
Her new friend Claudia (Emily Hampshire) becomes a bad influence – like drinking wine midday! Oh, you crazy millennials. Ester and Kaelin soon realize that maybe this is not Hannah at all. Maybe this is something else.
The audience, of course, is much more hip with the comings and goings of Hannah and her appendage. And Zlokovic takes that audience for a ride. Themes of discovery and reliance are diversified among the usual tropes of violence and punishment
Yet, Appendage could have been more.
Zlokovic’s style is significantly subdued if comparing Appendage to James Wan’s somewhat similar Malignant, which was a master study of amped horror and campy action also centered around a dark twin. Yet where Wan pushed into the crazy, Zlokovic’s horror did not go deep enough. Nor was her comedy as biting or sarcastic like the events surrounding Richard Grant and his particularly nasty boil in 1989’s How To Get Ahead in Advertising.
Appendage builds up and then twists, delightfully pulling and tugging all the way; but it never burns. Hannah agonizes and pouts; but never screams. With a runtime of 94 minutes, Appendage is successful enough with its mirth and escapism.
Appendage wants to be essential and is demanding in its presence. For as much heart as this film has, though, when compared to others in the genre, Appendage equates to nothing more than a spleen.