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Appendage Mines Mental Health, Monsters & Sapphic Attraction To Make A Halloween Must-See

‘Appendage’ Mines Mental Health, Monsters & Sapphic Attraction To Make A Halloween Must-See

Emily Hampshire in Appendage
Courtesy of Hulu

Writer-director Anna Zlokovic opens up about why this film was so personal and why casting Emily Hampshire was essential.

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The Halloween season is the perfect time to delve into the darker side of cinema. And there’s been no shortage of spooky season bangers created by queer filmmakers and/or featuring queer stories. But one you want to bump to the top of your watch list is Hulu’s Appendage by writer-director Anna Zlokovic, which the dropped as part of the streamer’s Huluween programming.

The film actually got its start as part of the network’s Bite Size Halloween annual short film series. The short starred Sapphics’ fave Rachel Sennott about a young fashion designer whose anxieties manifest into a physical, sentient growth. It’s weird, wonderful, and exactly the kind of short begging to be expanded on. Which is exactly what happened.

Writer-director Anna Zlokovic, who helmed the short, returned to develop the story, expand the lore, and flesh out — literally — the tale of Hannah (Hadley Robinson), a young woman whose deepest and darkest thoughts are made manifest. On the surface, her life feels like it’s on a positive track. She’s in a new, passionate relationship and works with her best friend at the design house of her dreams. But under the surface, something is growing, something born of anxiety, something monstrous that begins physically sprouting from her body.

For Zlokovic, making the abstract physical through the use of practical effects was not only essential to the filmmaking, but crucial thematically as well. “[Those feelings] feel so real to the person experiencing it. And it’s so hard to get that across to someone. People are empathetic, obviously. But it’s like, ‘No no no it feels like it’s real.’ Creating a practical effects monster was supposed to do that. It raises the stakes. It is real in this movie, it’s in the frame with her. So, feel it,” she tells PRIDE. And it works: the film succeeds both as a creepy monster movie with shades of body horror and as a contemplation on the power these feelings, emotions, and thoughts have over us.

If a story like that feels like it comes from a personal place, Zlokovic tells us that’s because it does. “It’s definitely something that I struggled with since I was a kid. I was bullied a lot,” she recalls. “I think that informed my self-confidence for a while. I think ... I was born this way and so it was absolutely coming from a personal place that I was excited to share because I think the more I talk to people, the more everyone is like, ‘No, me too! I really struggle with this and impostor syndrome and I just wake up sad for no reason.’ I’m like, ‘Yes, we all need to talk about it more and get it out there.’”

As Hannah’s appendage grows, she withdraws more from her friends and partner and seeks out someone who may understand the strange and terrifying transformation she’s undergoing. Enter Claudia (Emily Hampshire). The two strike up a bond and there is an immediate, electric chemistry between them. “It was totally intentional and something we talked about,” says Zlokovic. “Claudia... definitely was trying to find a partner and trying to bring that person into her fold and find a real connection with someone. And then for Hannah, it’s this person that you have a crush on that maybe you can’t be with but you’re also like friends. That was a really important part of the chemistry because I think it allows Hannah to open up to her, and this kind of crazy way.”

The casting is perfect as Hampshire embodies both the approachable and enigmatic. There was simply no one better for the role in Zlokovic’s opinion, and we agree completely. “Emily is just such a queer icon. In my opinion. I think she’s just the fucking best. So it’s really cool to have her in that role because it needed that,” she adds.

The result is a haunting and thought-provoking film that is infused with a sense of spooky dark humor, and bubbling queer tension. In other words, watch it tonight.

'Appendage' is streaming now on Hulu. Check out the trailer below. 

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Rachel Shatto

EIC of PRIDE.com

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.