Appendage (2023) Review

Appendage (2023) Review

Transforming Short Films into Features: A Challenge in Horror

The concept of turning successful short films into full-length features is widely embraced in the film industry. However, in the realm of horror, this approach often falls short. While the short may be captivating and deserving of praise, the resulting film can feel drawn-out and shallow. A prime example of this is the 2016 film “Lights Out,” which was adapted from a three-minute short that terrified even the bravest souls. Hulu’s recent release, “Appendage,” presents a similar scenario, but with a twist.

A Surprising Success: “Appendage” Takes Flight

Surprisingly, the film version not only succeeds but enhances the short film released two years prior in the popular “Bite-Size Halloween” segment. Rachel Sennott, once a newcomer and now a breakout star, has been replaced by Hadley Robinson. While fans of the original short may miss Sennott in the lead role, it must be acknowledged that Robinson performs admirably. She portrays Hannah, a designer struggling to gain her boss’s approval, much like the character in the short film. What the film adds are the characters of Hannah’s parents, with whom she shares a strained relationship. It’s clear that her affluent, high-society parents prefer to ignore their daughter’s serious mental health issues and pretend everything is fine. Shining a light on such a pertinent issue as detrimental parenting and its adverse effects on an individual was a commendable move.

The Literal and Figurative “Appendage”

Biologically speaking, the term “appendage” refers to a living organism growing out of the human body. In the context of the film, the title is quite literal, depicting precisely what happens to Hannah. The film wastes no time in getting to the point. During an uncomfortable dinner with her parents, Hannah senses an allergic reaction in her skin. This is followed by a disastrous encounter with her boss, Christian, who dismisses her work as unoriginal. Her skin allergy intensifies, and moments later, a grotesque appendage emerges from her body. Understandably, Hannah is in a state of shock and disbelief.

Layers of Fear: Is it Real or Symbolic?

The first hour of “Appendage” can be interpreted in two ways. One can view it as a straightforward horror where something terrible has actually happened to Hannah, and she is grappling with the consequences. Alternatively, one could look beyond the surface and consider the appendage as a manifestation of Hannah’s insecurity. The film establishes early on that Hannah is not in a good emotional state. She is in a reasonably healthy relationship with Kailen, a seemingly decent guy. However, there’s a nagging thought in her head telling her that Kailen might be unfaithful. And who is the person Kailen might be cheating with? None other than Hannah’s best friend and colleague, Esther. Despite Esther being the only one who truly cares about Hannah, and their friendship being steadfast, Hannah’s insecurities get the better of her. This, inevitably, strengthens her unsightly appendage, further complicating matters for our protagonist.

Appendage (2023) Review

Directorial Flair: Humor and Dark Undertones

I appreciate the treatment the film received from director Alana Zlokovic, who also helmed the short. Zlokovic deliberately injects deadpan humor and imparts a darkly comic undertone to the narrative, making the viewing experience engaging for the audience. “Appendage” also takes care to scrutinize the matter, no matter how outlandish it may seem, through the lens of science and logic. This is why, even though we understand that what happened to Hannah is something that should not occur under normal circumstances, we buy into it. This technique mirrors what Robert and Michelle King do in their superb Paramount Plus horror series “Evil” (2019–present). It ultimately leads to a gripping climax for “Appendage,” where you find yourself rooting for Hannah as she confronts her appendage, a confrontation that was inevitable from the start.

Tight Scripting and Engaging Editing

“Appendage” excels in both the writing and editing departments. The tightly woven script keeps you on edge, delivering twist after twist to prevent any chance of boredom. This is further aided by the sharp editing and a concise, ninety-four-minute runtime. The supporting performances are noteworthy, particularly Kausar Mohammad’s portrayal of Esther, and Emily Hampshire, who steps into a role vastly different from her most well-known one in “Schitt’s Creek.” Brandon Mychal Smith, while given relatively little to do aside from playing the clueless boyfriend, represents a moment where “Appendage” leans into the conventional tropes of the genre.

Beyond Horror: Unearthing Psychological Subtext

“Appendage” is part of “Halloween,” an annual horror extravaganza the channel has been hosting for some time now. October is the universally recognized time for spooky thrills and all things gory, and Hulu’s main objective is to provide content that satisfies the cravings of horror enthusiasts. While “Appendage” certainly succeeds in that regard, it is much more than a typical horror film. The psychological subtext of the film is not immediately apparent. In many ways, every horror film serves as a metaphor for something deeper. “Appendage” delves into Hannah’s troubled psyche, her fear of isolation, the fear of judgment, and the longing for love. The only reason her appendage wreaks havoc and inflicts damage is due to her self-doubt, a burden she has carried since childhood. Not to mention, her parents have been far from supportive. This is why I found it fitting for the film to depict Hannah vomiting on the food meant for her mother’s elaborate party before confronting her parents and demanding an apology for their disappointment. It’s clear that they are the ones who have failed, not Hannah.

 

FAQs

Q1: What is the main theme of “Appendage”?

“Appendage” delves into themes of psychological insecurity, fear of judgment, and the desire for acceptance and love.

Q2: How does the film approach the horror genre differently?

The film combines elements of horror with deadpan humor and a darkly comic undertone, providing a unique viewing experience.

Q3: What is the significance of the appendage in the film?

The appendage serves as both a literal and symbolic representation of the protagonist Hannah’s deep-seated insecurities.

Q4: How does the film address issues of parenting?

The film sheds light on the detrimental effects of bad parenting, particularly in the context of Hannah’s relationship with her affluent, high-society parents.

Q5: What distinguishes “Appendage” in terms of writing and editing?

The film stands out for its tightly woven script, delivering continuous twists, coupled with sharp editing and a concise runtime for an engaging viewing experience.

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