Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror
Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 1h 33m
Director(s): Ryan Stevens Harris
Writer(s): Ryan Stevens Harris
Cast: Augie Duke, Brionne Davis, Haven Lee Harris, Maria Olsen, Timothy Lee Depriest, Phillip E. Walker, Morgana Ignis
Where To Watch: coming to arthouse theaters beginning May 19, 2023; for more information, visit, www.oscilloscope.net
RAVING REVIEW: Take one part of NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, one part of Phil Tippett's MAD GOD, one part of THE CONJURING, and one part of the nightmarish 1988 Czech version of ALICE IN WONDERLAND, then shake vigorously sprinkle a little Guillermo del Toro on top, and you’ll have a tiny idea of what lies ahead of you. MOON GARDEN, the brainchild of Ryan Stevens Harris, is an inventive cinematic explosion that will warm your heart and chill you to the core. Harris creates an homage to these classic films with no shame, and it’s 100% a love letter to these haunting visions of cinema's rich history.
Emma, brilliantly portrayed by Haven Lee Harris, transports us into her world created as an escape from her parents' unstable relationship. Following a moment of absolute terror, Emma plunges into a fantasy realm of monsters and mayhem while having a blurred connection to the outside world. Harris manages to strike a unique balance between story and visuals, crafting a narrative that communicates volumes through its striking imagery. The visuals on the screen will encompass you and pull you into this surreal wonderland.
The interplay between reality and fantasy stands out in MOON GARDEN with a WIZARD OF OZ-like twist, bringing items from her reality into the world she has been pulled into. This intricate blend of her existence and this other world forms the visual backbone of the film, grappling with profound emotional themes.
Despite its whimsical exterior, MOON GARDEN doesn't shy away from exploring complex themes such as familial conflict and the crushing burden of loss. It's a film that embraces its fantastical elements while grounding itself in a potent emotional reality, forging a connection with viewers that transcends the movie itself. Ultimately, Emma's battles will have costly consequences for her existence and those close to her. The finale of the film is somewhat predictable but in the best possible way, creating a heavy toll and an emotional experience that will make you question everything you’ve learned so far in this film.
MOON GARDEN is more than a visual and emotional treat; it's a labor of love for Harris, a living testament to his passion for storytelling and art. The filmmaker's combined industry experience shines through in every facet of the film, from its stylized art design to its emotionally charged narrative.
With its “movie out of time” appeal, MOON GARDEN felt like a cinematic treasure pulled from the past and dusted off for a new generation of viewers. For Harris, the project is deeply personal, spanning nearly half a decade, with his wife's soothing lullabies echoing throughout the film, adding another layer of emotional depth.
The making of MOON GARDEN was an endeavor of epic proportions. It started as a photo shoot, then transformed into a music video and an experimental short film shot in Harris's garage, eventually paving the way for further filming in a recording studio in the Hollywood Hills.
The team meticulously collected 100,000 feet of expired 35mm film stock, with the initial batch found in a basement in Omaha, NE. The film's leading lady, Haven Lee Harris, was a mere four years old when filming commenced, with the production extending until she turned seven. Harris's commitment to the craft is evident in his choice of equipment, employing various types of 35mm film cameras during the film's creation.
MOON GARDEN is a visual celebration of resilience and the beauty of life, even in the face of adversity. It reminds us of the transformative power of art, guiding us through our deepest fears while fostering a sense of wonder and exploration. The film urges us to confront our vulnerabilities and inspires us to seek beauty and hope in adversity.
MOON GARDEN is a testament to its creator's imagination, and it serves as an inspiration for independent filmmakers across the globe, demonstrating the power of storytelling. MOON GARDEN is a film that needs to be seen to be believed, and once you've seen it, it's a film you'll carry with you forever.
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[photo courtesy of OSCILLOSCOPE LABORATORIES]