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“You’re a helpless deviant,” cries the hideous creature bound to a pole in the cellar of an apartment complex. The strange figure, horribly malformed and resembling Gollum’s drinking companion, is speaking to Hannah who has imprisoned the monstrosity. Despite this, the monster does not hesitate to tell her how terrible she is as it was born from her and feeds on her fears ultimately becoming stronger and more treacherous with each passing day.

These scenes – together with others that are even scarier than this – therefore play out in Appendage, Anna Zlokovic’s feature film debut as writer/director. Sure, say what you want about this unconventional horror-comedy but I guarantee you that it will make you listen to your inner critic so loud that it will eat you up from within; that alone sets it apart. In Appendage; henceforth Hannah is never the same (Hadley Robinson).

The film which forms part of Huluween’s ambitious “Huluween” lineup should be watched by all means possible if one values their time and resources. True, it may rate highly on the scale of weirdness but aside from these quirks there are few movies around right now that can boast of being either inventive or enthralling like Appendage airing this October.

Appendage starts off pretty innocently though. Hannah (Kausar Mohammed) and Esther (Desmin Borges of You’re The Worst) want to leave a mark on Cristean: coolest new fashion designer ever. To begin anew thereby severing ties with her difficult past is what Hannah expects from interning here finally already having had enough Mommy issues back home leaving a gaping lack-of-emotional support wound in her heart which feels so touchy-feely isn’t kind when touched by anything at all. Watch out for yourself there! Poor girl doesn’t first know why she has severe abdominal cramps? Her weird birthmark? Was it related to this?

But then something strange happens. An appendage. It’s not just a bellyache she’s having but one that seems to be literally growing and talking. However, the infantile and gross little thing is simply horrifying and reminds me of How to Get Ahead in Advertising – there are no words. You will be too. Eventually, Hannah discovers that the creature attached to her slimy bug-eyed foot reflects her disturbed inner thoughts, and when it decides to make an exit from her birthmark, Hannah finds herself in crisis.

Anna Zlokovic knows how to work the crowd. Finally, because this is a horror-comedy-thriller so camp has its place. Thankfully, not overwhelming. Therefore if you can put aside the weird set-up for a second, some of the film does remain tethered. Will you become attached enough to care about what becomes of Hannah as she keeps expanding while being stalked by her baby?

So instead of disappearing even further inward where nobody can see them: heaving down into her basement like a shameless slattern; weeping quietly into beer stein at night whilst wearing tattered shawls over stained peasant blouses; hiding behind broken picture frames as “you’re such an untalented artist” echoes through your head; shouting profanities at yourself when there’s nobody else around except for that annoyingly loud inner critic who thinks you’re an utter loser- every day she covers up another mirror with black cloth until they are all completely covered and cleaned out again.

However, despite keeping it locked up in a basement beneath her apartment building—she knows this well enough—it only continues tormenting her by capitalizing on any weakness seen in Hannah’s personality which means even more time wasted on self-pity while at work following Cristean around hoping maybe he’d deign to be impressed by anything his interns do; trying to find an equilibrium between the two characters’ lives with Kaelin (Rise of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Brandon Mychal Smith) who notices something’s off about Hannah recently.

Hannah’s appendage gets twisted and turns sinister, then becomes even more interesting when she finds out that she is not alone in her problem. After stumbling upon a secret support group, she realizes there are others like her who also have appendages who mirror their own insecurities—“you’re worthless,” “you won’t amount to anything,” and all that. Think 12-step meeting for appendage hosts. Indeed, these folks may have been powerless over their companions, but there is a way through.

And it is here that Hannah meets the stylish Claudia (played by Schitt’s Creek’s Emily Hampshire) who walks up in black enthusiastically willing to help her. Reportedly, you can mute the appendages by injecting them with a daily serum. Hannah likes this option so much and quickly befriends Claudia who teaches her how to go about holding an appendage hostage. But even though things are getting better for Hannah on this front; she can never quite get over her growing doubts or random hallucinations. Her friendship with Esther sours. Her jealousy in her relationship with Kaelin mounts. To make her feel easier about it all, Claudia tries to tell of nights gone hellish for herself too.Hence the need for this manifesto.

Anna Zlokovic turned the film into what viewers see today since expanding from short films she had previously made.One has to admit this effort.The movie doesn’t seem like it has big-budget effects but it works surprisingly well as a story-telling narrative especially given its bigger reveals – the Appendage in its various creepy slime ball stages infantile-adult comes top of the list.

The emotional beats of the film were also done well, striking a good balance between dark comedy and horror.Zlokovic was definitely influenced by Stanley Kubrick (The Shining), John Carpenter (Cujo, Christine) who knew how to be scary without losing their audience.Metaphors abound here too. Probably way too much—inner beastly critique and all that. The editing is on the mark, too. Bottom line: Appendage is a freaky ride, for sure. One that gets more fascinating by the minute like one would expect of its monstrous being on screen each passing minute.

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