First, I want to say I’m proud to have been a part of Moon Garden’s first showing in Houston. In my ideal world, every movie is capable of showing the same passion for cinema as Moon Garden, unfortunately, this is not the case. Moon Garden is shot on expired 35mm film stock with recycled lenses. It is also director Ryan Stevens Harris‘s debut feature. He previously worked as a film editor on projects such as Moonfall and Midway.
What is Moon Garden?
Moon Garden is a nightmarish odyssey through the perspective of a comatose girl, Emma, played by Haven Lee Harris, the daughter of director Ryan Stevens Harris. I can’t give enough praise to her performance in this film, I was genuinely terrified for her. Emma makes her way through a perilous journey accompanied by several key figures in her mind.
Guided by her mother’s voice, Emma must escape danger and find a way back to the conscious world. Moon Garden integrates stop motion animation throughout to make the fantasy world come to life.
Review: A Visual Feast With Delightfully Frightful Beasts
This is the first movie I’ve seen in quite some time that holds a grip on you as though you’re Malcom McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.
Don’t be mistaken, I mean that in the best way possible. The 93 minute runtime of this film simultaneously feels like an eternity and not enough time. Augie Duke, the mother of Emma in the film, nails her role as a slightly unstable, misunderstood figure who cares for her daughter deeply despite her issues.
The use of the song Without You written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans of Badfinger, covered by the duo Air Supply, sung in the film by Duke is haunting, soothing and a perfect fit. Quickly off topic, the only reason I mention Air Supply in here is because I felt the song in the film matched the tempo and rhythm of their version better but that could be entirely made up in my mind.
The opening camera work in Moon Garden is fantastic; the aesthetic of the expired film stock appeals to me completely. Some of the sets used in the film are reminiscent of A Nightmare on Elm Street which lends an inherent darkness that is fully taken advantage of. The creatures Ryan Stevens Harris is able to create are nothing short of stunning. The storytelling throughout the film could’ve been a little better, but if you’re anything like me, that won’t matter one bit as the visual narrative is really what you’re there for.
What should you expect watching Moon Garden?
The answer is absolutely nothing. Go in with no expectations and let your mind be sucked into the world in front of you. Visual storytelling is in some ways a lost art. The animation in the film is a welcome sight from someone who truly loves movies. Ryan Stevens Harris pours out a bit of himself in every frame and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. The work put into this film is inspiring especially if you have more than a casual relationship with movies.
Is Moon Garden only for arthouse fans?
Absolutely not. Anyone and everyone can and should get the opportunity to see this film. Not only to support the little guys in the industry, which you definitely should do, but also to enjoy an extremely well made horror/fantasy film.
Where can I watch Moon Garden?
At the time that this article is being written, there are no available screenings in Houston. DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED, please. Keep this on your radar because it has a very limited release. Go support this film so you and I can enjoy the good things in life. In twenty years I don’t want the only releases to be Transformers 14 or Fast and Furious 17. No hate on either of the franchises, but it’s just not the same as original, passionate work like Moon Garden.
The vast majority of films have their flaws and this is no exception to the rule. However, that should not keep anyone from seeing this fine example of passionate filmmaking. If you are truthfully a fan of movies you will have no problem falling in love with this. Final note, if you enjoyed the film, check out the original short Every Dream is a Child With Teeth by Ryan Stevens Harris.
Recommendation: See this wherever available