March 21, 2024

MOON GARDEN: Scenic Horror

2022 / 93 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

There’s a lot to like about Moon Garden

First, it’s aesthetically striking, which is all the more impressive when you realize this is a fairly low budget film fueled more by ambition than resources. The imagery, special effects and production design create a surreal atmosphere that manages to be both beautiful and nightmarish. If nothing else, simply looking at it is an engaging way to kill 90 minutes.

Then there’s Haven Lee Harris, the film’s five-year-old star and writer-director Ryan Stevens Harris’ daughter. It’s a remarkable performance that’s genuinely affecting, which is quite a feat considering she’s on-screen nearly the entire running time…often by herself. Our engagement in the narrative rests entirely on her little shoulders and she pulls it off wonderfully.

Harris plays Emma, the daughter of parents whose marriage is falling apart. During one of their heated arguments, she falls down a flight of stairs and drifts into a coma. Doctors try to save her life while Mom & Dad stay by her side. Meanwhile, Emma is trapped in a dreamworld between life and death, struggling to regain consciousness while being pursued by a faceless, tear-drinking monster with hellishly chattering teeth (an impressively malevolent creation). 

Why some kids hate bath night.
The rest of the episodic narrative is Emma’s journey through a netherworld of her own mind’s creation, meeting several strange characters who try to help her before being devoured by Teeth (the monster's title in the credits). What some of these characters and sequences are supposed to symbolize is generally ambiguous, sometimes frustratingly so. And while the film is rife with creativity and features some great sequences, the story does feel a little repetitive at times.

Still, Moon Garden is an enjoyable horror-fantasy that might even be great for kids as an introduction to the horror genre (sort of like Poltergeist was for some of us). While the visuals might evoke the work of Guillermo del Toro or Terry Gilliam (maybe even Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, to a certain extent), it’s never particularly violent or flat-out terrifying…though Teeth could possibly cause a few nightmares.


BEHIND-THE-SCENES FEATURETTE - This is a very interesting piece with plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, which makes one appreciate what they were able to accomplish with limited resources.

SHORT FILM - “Every Dream is a Child with Teeth.” The basis for this film.



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