The Quarantine Stream: 'Over The Garden Wall' Is The Perfect Fall-Time Fairy Tale

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they've been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)The SeriesOver the Garden WallWhere You Can Stream It: HBO Max, HuluThe Pitch: Brothers Wirt and Greg get lost in the Unknown, a mysterious forest adrift in time where animals talk, ancient creatures lead lost souls astray, and sentient pumpkins engage in creepy cultish rituals. The two try to find their way back home, encountering all kinds of strange and fantastical things on their journey.Why It's Essential ViewingOver the Garden Wall is a singular animated fantasy adventure series that manages to achieve one of the things that few shows geared toward kids have been able to do: be genuinely unsettling. Created by Patrick McHale as a 10-episode miniseries in 2014, Over the Garden Wall takes inspiration from folk art and classic Grisaillesque illustrations, making you feel like you're stepping into a storybook, but the kind of storybook that you find hidden in an attic, covered in dust. With its autumnal setting and ominous undertones, Over the Garden Wall has established itself as a fall-time ritual of its own — one that you can settle back and watch with a cup of cocoa to be transported to a strange, far-off place.

Over the course of its 110 minute run time, two half-brothers — the meek and exasperated Wirt (Elijah Wood) and the free-spirited, slightly kooky Greg (Collin Dean) — attempt to navigate the dark and twisted forest which they've found themselves lost in. Early in their adventures, they meet a talking bluebird, Beatrice (Melanie Lynskey), who is seeking to rid herself of a curse.

The brothers meet numerous characters on their journey, from the comical to the terrifying, each stranger than the last. There is the Woodsman, who wanders the woods with a lantern, diligently cutting down trees to keep it lit. There is the Beast, an unseen creature who leads lost souls astray until they lose their hope and willpower and turn into "Edelwood trees." And in one of the most striking episodes of the miniseries, a village populated by sentient, possibly cannibalistic, pumpkins.

The show is purposely ambiguous about what this mysterious forest and its denizens are. I've read some fun speculation that the entire show is a fantasy retelling of Dante's Inferno, and more that each episode is centered around characters who, with the help of our show's heroes, overcome the seven deadly sins.

Over the Garden Wall is magical realism with an air of melancholy that recalls the whimsical fantasy storytelling of the best Hayao Miyazaki films. As the brothers trudge along in this seemingly never-ending forest, it becomes clear that something is amiss, but also that something magical and wonderful is at work. It feels so strongly like a personification of fall itself — in all its mysteries and nostalgia. The show's haunting autumnal score, enigmatic beauty, and beautifully written characters (with more depth than the offbeat stereotypes would suggest) make Over the Garden Wall a truly unique experience.