‘Sylphvania Grove’: The Horror News Network Review

by Jay Kay

From the visually powerful mind of acclaimed filmmaker and producer Rebekah Fieschi (Mauvaises Têtes and Monster Soup) comes a fantastical perspective of loneness, empowerment and fantasy in Sylphvania Grove. Focusing on a young girl named Mycena (Maxine Wanderer), Sylphvania Grove is a departure from the horror stylings of Fieschi and more into the fable/horror hybrid that tells a complete story of a coming of age.

Mycena sits in her room, ready for bed while waiting for her parents to get home. Trying to make Mycena’s bedtime more peaceful and easier, her nanny, Kim (Charlie Gillette) picks up the storybook entitled Sylphvania Grove and begins to read it to her, hoping that her parent’s absence will be forgotten. As Mycena begins to settle in, Kim puts down the book to let her rest for the night. Mycena can’t shake the weighing of the emotion that her parents are absent again to tuck her in, talk to her or even be there as she deals with emotions no child should have to bare. As Kim leaves Mycena to sleep, the storybook comes to life and becomes her guide to a world just outside her window and into the woods. Adding on to the what she already knows of Sylphvania Grove, she ventures into the woods following the storybooks prompts brought to shining life right off the page.

Meeting a tree with what looks like a hole to fit her body through, she enters the den and is met by one of the creatures that lives inside the tree trunk. Mycena is greeted by a half human and half deer creature in Dotoira (Meaghan Bloom Fluitt). Dotoria warns her of the monsters that sit in the woods waiting to take her and how she no longer needs a home but the one she has with her now. Dealing with the fears that reflect her absent parents, she is panicked at first, but slowly finds the maturity and bravery inside herself. Mycena decides to leave the safety of the tree trunk and head into the woods to face the challenges, creatures and questions that will reflect her fears, wonder and appreciation for the life she has in the real world. Will she get home and how will her life when she returns to the reality of her young life?

Sylphvania Grove is a wonderful short form film that is constricted by time. Bringing a lot to life in less than 20 minutes, Fieschi crafts a connecting cautionary tale showing her range. Handling very personal issues, Fieschi addresses a range of universal childhood insecurities including the idea of maturity, expectations as we grow up and the role of parents who must provide and cannot be there always. Why the tone at times is dark and heavy, the feel and look of Sylphvania Grove is lush, warm and storybook like. Fieschi, whose previous body of work all have a certain vision and style does not depart from her reputation of visual enchantment with Sylphvania Grove. Unlike her last acclaimed horror short Mauvaises Têtes, Sylphvania Grove is again bathes in naturalistic color and light. The lighting overall is calculated and golden to fully affect the viewer and transport them to a world that sits on the line of reality and fantasy. The cinematography is brilliant. Each shot allows for growth in the frame and fully captures the levels. An example of this is inside the tree trunk. DP Carlos Garcia de Dios paces the camera behind Mycena and shoots Dotoria looking down at her. The combination of makeup FX, blocking, reaction and the framing brings to life one of the few intense moments taking us out of Mycena’s headspace and showing the blur of reality and fear. The sound and score also bring to life the wooded wonderland that surrounds the characters. A blend of fairy tale themes and synth influence create a sound that is not fitting but at times enhance the action going on. It is a guide in this short reflecting the emotional ride.

A cautionary tale for sure, Sylphvania Grove has a story that will impact anyone. The heavy female cast is welcomed with performers putting forth emotional and satisfying performances. Wanderer’s embodiment of Mycena is both sad with the absence of her parents but empowering in the way she rises from the woods with the reality of her situation. The heavy theme of not growing up to fast is welcomed and of course a staple of storytelling like that this. Again, my one issue, is that the running time held back the full development for the world around Mycena. I wanted to discover the characters more, cultivate the tension and explore the power of that storybook as it comes to full life. Perhaps a longer cut is needed to fully flush out the encounters, emotion and magic of this narrative. However, Fieschi continues to grow as a filmmaker and creates complete genre storytelling that dances on a dreamscape and a nightmare.

Take a few moments and head over to IMDB for Sylphvania Grove at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7975758/?ref_=nm_knf_i2 and find out more about Horromance Productions at http://horromance.com

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