Body horror and creature feature combine in writer/director Anna Zlokovic’s feature Appendage. Fueled by solid direction, fine performances, and fun special effects work, the film comes highly recommended for horror fans.
Hannah (Hadley Robinson) is a fashion designer hoping to make it into the upcoming seasonal collection of her ill-mannered boss. She receives a great deal of support from her friend and colleague Esther (Kausar Mohammed) and her boyfriend Kaelin (Brandon Mychal Smith), but none from her own parents, who hold an incident from her high school years against her.
As Hannah’s insecurities mount, she develops a growth in her side, springing from a birthmark — a growth with a face, that enjoys needling her about the things that already trouble her. As the appendage grows, Hannah seeks support from a group of others sharing her affliction, including Claudia (Emily Hamphsire), who has seemingly tamed her own appendage into a more submissive role.
Appendage features some humorous moments but more often plays things straight — at least as straight as the absurd circumstances on display allow. The appendage effects — reminiscent of Basket Case, with the story and initial version of the nasty growth recalling shades of the terrific dark comedy How to Get Ahead in Advertising starring Richard E. Grant — are eerily effective. Robinson is super in her portrayal of a troubled young woman looking to improve her lot in life but hounded by decisions she made in the past, and Mohammed displays fine chemistry with her.
Zlokovic has crafted an always entertaining, often dizzying chiller that speaks to the insecurities that we all feel at times. Watch for its run as a Hulu Original later in 2023.
Appendage screens as part of SXSW, which runs March 10–19 in Austin, Texas.