<script async src="https://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js?client=ca-pub-1244273282732907" crossorigin="anonymous"> ‘Moon Garden’ Review: Malice in Wonderland - usanewsmart
‘Moon Garden’ Review: Malice in Wonderland

‘Moon Garden’ Review: Malice in Wonderland

“Moon Garden” is a nightmare tour through a small child’s psyche that the filmmaker Ryan Stevens Harris could have staged as an escape room, or a haunted house, or a themed restaurant where his creepy puppets and bizarro performers would chatter their teeth at you while smashing plates. It feels as though he chose to make a movie simply because that’s the handiest way to get his ghastly creations seen.

Harris seems bored by his film’s opening sequence, a chintzy melodrama about a girl named Emma (his own daughter Haven Lee Harris, just 4-years-old when she started the project) and her miserable parents (Brionne Davis and Augie Duke). Only after Emma’s circumstances get worse — the poor dear is knocked comatose — do things onscreen improve.

Heroines have been tumbling into their own subconscious since “The Wizard of Oz” and “Alice in Wonderland.” Rarely are the kids this young — and their adventures this dark. The moppet charges through all sorts of muck with kittenish courage as Harris unleashes an army of unnerving practical effects: stop motion tear-gobbling monsters, disconcerting reversed footage, time lapses of rotting fruit, skin-crawling sound design. Initially, we’re repelled by the ’90s grunge video aesthetics. Later, we admire the power in these visceral expressions of traumas Emma will someday tell her therapist.

As the tot struggles to sweep up the wreckage of a rampaging bride and groom, we sense she already knows she’s the family fixer. The film doesn’t need three lullaby covers of the Badfinger ballad “Without You” when it has the poetry of Harris’s emotional insights, particularly the line: “I wish I had learned that the world was bigger than how I felt.”

Moon Garden
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. In theaters.

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