(director: Ryan Stevens Harris; cinematographer: Wolfgang Meyer; editor: Ryan Stevens Harris; music: Michael Deragon; cast: Augie Duke (Sara), Brionne Davis (Alex), Haven Lee Harris (Emma), Maria Olsen (Princess), Tea Mckay (Bride), Timothy Lee DePriest (Groom), Phillip E. Walker (Musician), Morgana Ignis (Teeth); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer; John Michael Elfers: Fire Trial Films; 2022)
“A visually stunning fantasy film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A visually stunning fantasy film from the editor-turned-writer-director Ryan Stevens Harris (“Virus X”) that stars his angelic redheaded five-year-old daughter Haven Lee as Emma.
One day after witnessing a quarrel at home between her mother Sara (Augie Duke) and father Alex (Brionne Davis), who are locked in a loveless marriage, the little girl Emma slips on her toys scattered all over the floor and falls down the stairs. While unconscious on a hospital bed, she’s in a dream state on the doorsteps to hell.
In her precarious condition, Emma views many ghoulish characters while hearing a Black musician (Phillip E. Walker) in a white face play the haunting Harry Nilsson lullaby “Without You,” on a harpsichord, that’s being sung by her mom as she usually does.
Emma’s in a comatose position after her accident, as the past and present blend together, causing her to see strange things in a netherworld called “Moon Garden.” It’s a world of disembodied teeth, stop-motion animated monsters, of faceless demons and Satan-fingered monsters coming out of toilets.
Also popping into her head there’s the ghost of Miss Havisham in the moldy groom (Timothy Lee DePriest). The groom dances on a table with his bride (Tea Mckay).
The special effects and art direction are special, as “Moon Garden” effectively creates a nightmarish world of childhood innocence.
Emma struggles to return home by using her imagination.
If you fell in love with “The Wizard of Oz” and can imagine what Tim Burton would do with that story, you’ve found here your kind of juvenile fantasy film.
Ryan Stevens Harris and his adorable daughter effectively take us on a journey between the dual worlds of sleep and wakefulness.
REVIEWED ON 6/8/2022 GRADE: B+