Hulu’s Bite Size Halloween provides horror fans with a variety of shorts spanning all kinds of different horror subgenres. Artists get a chance to showcase their work and tell their stories each Halloween season. Some of those shorts are then turned into feature films, like Anna Zlokovic’s Appendage.
Appendage follows Hannah, a young fashion designer who seems fine on the surface but secretly struggles with debilitating self doubt. As it turns out, those bottled up emotions manifest themselves in the form of her appendage, which uncovers a much deeper and more sinister story.
You can’t discuss this film for long without acknowledging the fact that it is absolutely and completely crazy. While there is a very real story at the heart of this film, make no mistake, it’s a movie about an evil little person with telepathic powers growing out of the lead character. It is totally off the wall and ridiculous which makes it difficult to take seriously at times.
And it’s not just the bizarre creature that creates that feeling. Almost every character behaves completely irrationally and repeatedly jumps to making outrageous responses. Before we can even get to know the characters in the film, they mostly become completely unlikable which gets the film off to a tough start, even before we get to the sci-fi craziness.
And then there’s the story at the core of this film. Appendage is built on elements of brilliance. At its most basic, this film is a story about a young woman’s struggle with depression, anxiety and alcoholism and how she allows them to shut herself off from everyone around her. It’s deeply heartbreaking at times and for brief, brief moments it makes you forget the little creature that grew out of her stomach and tries to hypnotize her.
And that’s the biggest problem this film struggles with: it just can’t decide what it wants to be. If it fully leaned into the ridiculous concept of this creature, it would hit for a certain audience. If it cut all the nonsense and just told the story of this girl and her internal struggles, we would be talking about all the awards it would be taking home. There is some version of this film that can tie those two elements together in an effective way, but it’s not this one.
The early struggles with the cast of the film do hit a turning point eventually. As the story really starts to reach a boiling point, Hadley Robinson’s performance as Hannah begins to take hold and draws the audience in. Those serious moments are so affective because of her portrayal of the character. Emily Hampshire also shines as the charismatic but troubled Claudia.
The film does deliver on the hallmark of a good horror film: a twist. Like those serious moments, the film hits the audience with a moment that draws them in and makes them look at the film in another way. And then it tries to twist a bit too much and falls right back into that over-the-top, sort of goofy body horror that refuses to acknowledge its flaws. Again, it’s so frustrating because those brief glimpses of brilliance really make you believe for just a moment.
Overall, Appendage just needs to pick a side. It it’s going to be a crazy and silly horror comedy, it could do that. If it wants to be a very real-world drama leaning on a great performance from its lead, it could do that too. Unfortunately, this film tries to be both and it falls somewhere in between that just gives its audience whiplash. There are certainly enjoyable aspects of this film, but they’re outnumbered low-budget puppet monsters and unbelievable reactions from its characters.
Appendage made its world premiere at SXSW and will be coming soon to Hulu.