GORE IN THE STORE
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans
MOON GARDEN ****
Directed by Ryan Stevens Harris.
Starring Haven Lee Harris, Augie Duke, Brionne Davis.
Fantasy, 92 minutes.
Released by Oscilloscope Pictures.
I will confess that I had no idea what a Moon Garden was or even hearing the term mentioned before. If you are as clueless as me, the term describes a type of garden that is best enjoyed by the light of the moon, illuminating all manner of flowers and vegetation that may pass by unnoticed in the unforgiving light of day. With this impressive and distinctive debut feature, Ryan Stevens Harris has made a film that feels like it could only have been conjured up on a pitch-black night with its often-nightmarish visuals. This film, however, also manages to shine brightly in its own darkness with the unique and original way it tells its fantastical tale of hope, survival and reconciliation.
Harris’s own daughter Haven takes centre stage as Emma, a young girl who has recently become comatose when trying to seek refuge after yet another argument between her mother and father, who are becoming more and more estranged from each other. While her parents keep a vigil beside her hospital bed, considering the troubling options in aiding her precarious recovery, Emma finds herself journeying through a fantastical and vast landscape populated by all manner of surreal creatures and figures who attempt to aid or deter her from returning to the land of the living in their own ways.
Very much a labour of love, this low-budget debut is a deeply impressive calling card for Harris. Previously known as an editor, most recently on Roland Emmerich’s disaster epic MOONFALL, Harris proves his skills here with a visual imagination that recalls the likes of Terry Gilliam and even evokes Phil Tippet’s recent decades in the making stop-motion epic MAD GOD. Particularly impressive is the fact that he has evoked such sights with a limited budget. Although it may come across as low-tech in some aspects, there is a tactility employed here in this dreamscape that makes a perfect kind of analogue sense in its lead characters' imagination. That this approach only adds to the viewing experience is impressive enough. Still, Harris has also scripted a deeply affecting narrative that his daughter performs in an also deeply impressive manner.
Child in peril movies are nothing new to genre audiences, but there is a real sense of peril at play here. While the young girl does look genuinely scared out of her wits at times, especially when running from the nightmarish figure of a trench-coated figure with only a set of large chattering fangs in place of a face, Haven Lee Harris also gives a deeply sympathetic and convincing performance of a child upset and confused by the situation between her mother and father. Harris depicts both mother and father, both convincingly and sympathetically played by Augie Duke and Brionne Davis, as a set of equally flawed individuals finding themselves united in their love and grief.
While intensely emotional, the film's fantasy elements keep its heart and head in the clouds. Its visual style also recalls Neil Gaiman’s THE SANDMAN comics; the use of Emma’s cuddly rhino toy being transformed into a gigantic mode of transport across a vast moonlit desert is one visual similarity. Shot on Kodak film, MOON GARDEN is one of the most distinctive films of the year and its scary, honest looks at a child’s imagination make it one of the most striking films of the year, which makes it easy to highly recommend for all lovers of fantasy and horror cinema.
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans