Garden of Souls - Filmiracle Productions
Written by Jay Creepy   
Monday, 29 April 2019


Severed Cinema review of Garden of Souls

Directed by: Chris Milewski
Written by: Chris Milewski
Produced by: Chris Milewski
Cinematography by: Chris Milewski
Special Effects by: Chris Milewski
Music by: Peter Krasinski
Editing by: Chris Milewski
Cast: Karen Lynn Widdoss, Eric Bower, Betty Roehm Widdoss, Jackie Capazzi.
Year: 2019
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Tinted
Runtime: 16 min

Studio: Filmiracle Productions

Severed Cinema regulars (shall we start a cult? Maybe called Sev-Cinners?) will be totally clued up on one of our regular directors, Chris Milewski. He's an American bloke brought up the correct way and able to concoct short films which capture the pure twisted souls and hearts of the Italian and Euro classics of old. I have said before, his films are the closest you could get to discovering a brand new 'lost' Italian gem.

The last time I reviewed something from his gothic and corpse ridden castle of creations, was late last year with Phantoms of the Fog (see review here), Chris recently contacted me letting me know he had something very different ready for me to watch. Oh yes, Chris, feed me something please! I've been starved of your heavily atmospheric tasty treats.

In fact, Chris pondered whether I would like it because it is a continent and in fact, almost a century or so away from his usual influences being that we are about to be transported back to the years circa the early 1920s or perhaps 1918-19, give or take. Don't worry, I have a vast collection of silent film curios covering many subjects -- it is something close to my heart. I am spellbound by the era of early cinema (I've just realised I've only ever reviewed one silent film in my time on Severed. Expect a marathon length pouring of these sometimes forgotten classics to arrive soon).

I applauded aloud (startling by poor black cat, Crowley, in the process) as I beheld, only moments in, the stunning beauty of what Chris Milewski has achieved. Not content with being the master of his Italian realm, he now conquers another the golden time of powerful on screen silence!

Garden of Souls opens to a churchyard and a widow kneeling by the plot of her lost love. She weeps, then a voice says, Don't fret, lass. There is an old woman yonder, near the trees. Our widow approaches the crone, who beckons. She is told that they can be together again, but in exchange for such, she must help the old woman fill her garden with souls.

Thus as night falls, our widow digs into the ground, following given instructions to retrieve a bone of her deceased love, to give to the old woman. She returns home to wait and see what will happen as the old lady works her magic aiming to fulfil her side of their bargain...

Oh my God, I am excited. Garden of Souls has dragged the lost essence of the silver screen across decades, where the images had to be so strong, so captivating to the audience. Performances and expressions wrung emotions and allowed themselves to be felt without words. Lon Chaney was the greatest of this art form, along with so many others working hard only to be caught in a whirlpool of change as the talkies arrived. Many sank, some swam. Garden of Souls reminds us just how amazing those years were when the souls of performers were laid bare for us to witness. Okay, of course none of the cast members are ranking instantly on the high pillars of those legends, but taken for what Garden of Souls is meant to be, they work well and are a joy to see.

The music! Flickers! Oh my, the sepia, blues, etcetera - colours, pale and weeping, could be from a film stored in a dusty can discovered shut away in someone's collection somewhere. The acting is so brilliantly cheeky, twined around Chris Milewski's plotted and executed homage -- I was enthralled. Karen Lynn Widdoss, having been the most regular player in these slices of grim macabre, turns in a mellow and sombre role as the widow (not the widdoss, hahaha) but I'm afraid it's Betty Roehm Widdoss as the old hag which teaches everyone how to do it. She is so convincing and I found myself chuckling in delight as she gestated and spoke silently, every second she's on-screen is just sublime. Betty happens to be Karen's Mum, and isn't an actress, she just fit the part well in the eyes of Chris. Bless, she really looks like she's having a wonderful time and that adds such a natural cunning glee to the old woman.

Eric Bower, who plays the widow's lost hubby appearing in her dreams, is another of Chris' regular faces, having popped up in four other shorts.

I like the fact there's a sprinkle of casual humour in parts if you spot it. In some of the title cards, the way the cast work and in the terrific skeletal scene. The film has a twist ending of course which you can kind of guess just about near the conclusion, but it's all a charm unto itself. I love it. Chris has captured something unique in a dusty bottle here.



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Last Updated ( Monday, 29 April 2019 )