In mythology, Gaia is a greek goddess believed to be the personification of earth. People have since evolved the idea of Gaia, believing that this living earth controls herself and contains her own environment. This movie embodies every theory behind the word.
Gaia, a 2021 SXSW (South by SouthWest) selection, directed by Jaco Bouwer, is a great horror movie showing a unique perspective of how the earth (Gaia) fights back. This film is produced and written by Tertius Kapp, and stars Monique Rockman, Carel Nel, Anthony Oseyemi, and Alex van Dyk who all do a fantastic job playing their roles in this horror thriller.
The concept of this film is simple. As stated in the film, ever since the industrial revolution Mother earth, God or Gaia has been gearing up to fight back against the modern civilization that continues to develop and continues to kill her. Gaia has been creating an army in the woods of tree people (although they are definitely scarier on the screen) who are dead humans converted essentially into earth-like humans. They have fungi, grass, and tree features engulfing them. On paper this film might sound idiotic, but you have to watch to see what really unfolds and how well the concept of a living Gaia haunts the forest and potentially the entire planet. As much as this is a horror film, it is also a concept film that forces you to think about our relationship with mother nature. It is not close your eyes scary, but it is gory, and quite suspenseful.
The film puts you into the action immediately. There are two forest workers, Gabi (Monique Rockman), and Winston (Anthony Oseyemi) who end up separating due to Gabi wanting to fetch her drone. This is when chaos ensues. Winston is met with the infamous tree people, and sees the true horror of the forest. Gabi on the other hand meets Barend (Carel Nel) and Stefan (Alex van Dyk) who have been living in the woods for years (Stefan was raised in the forest). The writers do a fantastic job at not letting the viewer know if the pair is truly good or not. The actors play their characters very well as the development of the pair shows their true craziness and why they are so devoted to the forest.
There are a lot of ways that the story develops including twists, and foreshadowing in a unique way. For starters Barend and Stefans’ relationship to the forest is out of the ordinary and a shock to viewers. It is a very strange relationship and definitely questionable. Their development brings for interesting situations as Barend is forced to make a great decision with his son, and how Barend and Gabis’ relationship grows very strong. As the film progresses we find out about Stefans’ ex-wife, and her significance to the story. He says how she died then he met a girl, and when asked who he replies “God.” This is one example of how foreshadowing plays a significant role in the film. Gabi has numerous dreams throughout the film that hint at her being infected by Gaia, but sometimes they come true and sometimes they don’t. The dreams are suspenseful and immerse you into a dark path where you can only ponder on the validity of what you see.
One of the best parts of the film was the camera and editing work. One huge part of the film was small dust-like fibers that come from Gaia and will infect and kill you. The images were all extremely cool to watch and added a psychedelic element in a variety of ways. There were very distinct shots in Gabis’ dreams that caught your eye immediately. The costume work to create fungi and plants on people was also done very well.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Gaia is a very interesting horror film that not only makes you think, but puts you in suspense for the same film. It is only about 90 minutes long and is action packed for the entire time.