SXSW Review – Appendage

Anna Zlokovic brought her horror short Appendage to Sundance in 2022, and it was pretty good! A very stressed fashion designer (played by Rachel Sennott) had an evil growth that emerges from the side of her midriff and tells her what a loser she is, coming on like a dysfunctional cross between Kuato from Total Recall, Belial from Basket Case, and Richard E Grant’s wart from How To Get Ahead in Advertising. Only by conquering it could she deliver a kick-ass design to her boss (Eric Roberts) in time for the morning meeting. Hurrah!

Now Zlokovic is back, this time at SXSW, with a feature-length adaptation of Appendage, and sadly its mixed news. The plot of the 5½ minute short is stretched over about 40 minutes, and it drags. Sennott has been replaced with Hadley Robinson, Roberts is similar out, and for a while the whole thing just starts to feel limp. A consequence of my having seen the short? I don’t think so – even for people coming in cold I think this would be a bit of a trudge.

But here’s the good news – the back end of this movie suddenly comes alive, taking the basic premise and building on it in fun, inventive, unexpected ways. To elaborate would mean big spoilers, but the pacing improves, the threat becomes scarier, and the themes become richer. If only the front end was tightened up, and the story got interesting sooner – too much of the first act is taken up by the lead’s work stresses, family arguments, and boyfriend troubles, and they just aren’t compelling enough. With a B-movie premise like this, the audience wants thrills and spills – and Zlokovic gets there in the end, delivering a great climax.

Ultimately then, this is a promising feature debut – if Zlokovic can build on its strengths, she will be one to watch in the future.

In the meantime, her very good original short can be found here.

Appendage played at the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX.

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