Appalachian Dog Image

Appalachian Dog

By Matthew Roe | November 4, 2023

It’s obvious in every frame of Appalachian Dog that Henning, Morgan, Elizabeth, and Franklin give their performances their all. Even though the film is propelled by a slow and deliberate pace — with many scenes playing out largely in master shots with little coverage — the snappy dialogue and plausible on-screen chemistry (or purposeful lack thereof) of the cast kept me locked in and engaged from their first conversation to the start of the ending credits. But this is helped tremendously by nearly every other factor at play.

Cinematographer Aidan Macaluso manages to turn a simple and rustic home in the heart of the Appalachian wilderness into an increasingly claustrophobic journey of tilted angles and frames-within-frames. Even when characters are outdoors, their world is always being compressed and contained — the more they struggle for control, the tighter the noose is pulled. This is compounded expertly by the sharp editing and absolutely stellar sound design by Producer Chad Hylton. They mix the ever-constant wind, running water, and animal life surrounding the Henry, Wills, and Darrow homes with the punctuated droning and low-key humming that builds the bulk of the musical soundscapes. Even the most innocuous scenes have an undercurrent of almost sinister intent. In the earliest sequences, I wasn’t sure if I was about to watch a ‘coming home’ narrative where post-trauma knocks against the tides of change or was about to experience some creeping horror story where people violently lose their minds in the woods.

“…a concoction as sharp and disarming as moonshine…”

The filmmakers keep this balancing act between the uncertain and the uncanny throughout the whole story, and the film is all the stronger for it. While there are moments in the post-production voice dubbing that bring the low-budget seams of the film into sharp relief, they occur so seldomly that little of the overall experience is hurt by it. Even though Appalachian Dog‘s story follows several beats, which can be fairly obvious long before they occur, the movie also throws some curveballs into the mix, which shake up its formula. Though some late-film revelations — especially those involving Aaron J. Stewart’s character Andrew Wills — feel a little too underbaked to be totally plausible within the narrative. Not saying these shouldn’t have occurred at all, but that the filmmakers didn’t quite do enough to set down the breadcrumbs needed for these revelations to pack the punch they were engineered to deliver.

Appalachian Dog is as surprising as it is familiar. There aren’t any character dynamics or technical expertise at play that haven’t been used elsewhere, but this particular mash of ingredients has fermented and distilled into a concoction as sharp and disarming as moonshine in the character’s mason jars.

For screening information, visit the Appalachian Dog official website.

Appalachian Dog (2023)

Directed and Written: Colin Henning

Starring: Georgia Morgan, Hayleigh Hart Franklin, Brooke Elizabeth, Colin Henning, Monica Rae Summers Gonzalez, Aaron J. Stewart, Annie McLean, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Appalachian Dog Image

"…desire for what was clashes against the realities of what is..."

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