Grimmfest: Moon Garden (2022)

Director: Ryan Stevens Harris

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Starring: Augie Duke, Brionne Davis, Haven Lee Harris, Morgana Ignis, Maria Olsen, Timothy Lee DePriest, Phillip E. Walker

In the midst of the night, five-year-old Emma (Haven Lee Harris) is awoken by her mother, Sara (Augie Duke). Their attempt to leave in the car is stopped by Emma's father, Alex (Brionne Davis). A tense situation unfolds between the parents, as an argument explodes which feels like the latest of many, resulting in an accident which leaves the young girl comatose. She awakens in a fantastical world where imagination runs riot, yet she must escape a terrifying figure in pursuit as the real world's harsh realities bleed through. Guided by her mother's voice on a radio, she journeys to find her way back to consciousness.

Between the eye-popping cinematography and terrific sound design, this industrial wonderland is brought alive to depict unsettling imagery and dazzling landscapes. This world of wonders and terrors equally fascinates and terrifies Emma, as her descent into the world resembles a cross between Pan's Labyrinth and Mad God. The young girl is driven to get back home, undertaking an adventure to stop her parents feeling sad, and the performance put into the role terrifically captures how she reacts with fear and intrigue to the unfolding scenario.

Writer/director Ryan Stevens Harris uses simple ideas to great effectiveness, with a piano's destruction in reverse brought alive so imaginatively. This extends to how memories and beloved items from Emma's world bleed in, from the helpful appearance of her beloved stuffed rhino to Grandpa's teeth taking an unsettling guise. Flashbacks are wonderfully woven into the tale, showing happier times for the family before bitterness from work and deadlines left things feeling tainted. At it's core, this is a heartfelt adventure with such lovely imagination and promise for those involved.

Moon Garden made its International Premiere at Grimmfest