Who loves to go out into nature and bask in the beauty of planet earth? To be honest, that really does describe me. Think about it, how would I have so much time to watch and review all these movies if I were out enjoying nature all the time? But it is a nice feeling to be out in nature and seeing all the beautiful things that nature has to offer. But if I encounter the embodies of Gaia that appear in the new horror film, Gaia, I will have second thoughts.
What is so scary about the entities that appear in this new film? Well…how do you feel about fungi? Depending on that answer, you may have some feelings about them. This film focuses on a forest ranger who is separated from her partner during a routine shift. When she becomes injured, she is taken in by a father-son combo of off-the-grid survivalists. What are they doing in the forest? What strange connection do they have with Mother Nature? What audiences are treated to is an atmospheric and engrossing experience filled with eerie and unnerving visuals.
How does director Jaco Bouwer bring this chilling film to life? For one thing, the effects and make-up that bring the fungi-based creatures to life are quite impressive. Chilling and frightening, these creatures deliver poignant scares and will last in your memory long after the film ends. The photography in the film is breath-taking as well. For a film centered on the beauty of earth, you really need to capture that beauty so that the audience feels the connection. Bouwer and his cinematographer can achieve that perfectly. There are striking shots of the forest from above that show the expanse of this forest with great transitions from shocking collections of fungi left by the touch of Gaia herself. The way that they can connect these visually is impressive.
But is Gaia more than just some creepy creatures and striking visuals? It certainly is with its deeply thematic look at how humanity is at conflict with nature. The father survivalist is strong in his connection with nature and his aggressive hatred for technology shines through. The conflict from his destruction of technology leaves our forest ranger isolated and in his care. She is injured and hopeless, left to the whim of this man and the powerful spores of nature. The earth slowly overtakes her with fungi appearing across her body. This symbolic erosion of humanity and return to nature is portrayed in such a compelling way by Bouwer and his crew. But this is not a perfect film as the narrative thrust of the film is lacking and a romantic subplot that is unfulfilling.
Will you be diving into this engrossing and unnerving experience? Gaia makes you not only think but also dwell on the horrors portrayed on screen. This is a fresh and unique atmospheric horror with a strong and relevant message. Don’t go in expecting the next The Conjuring and you will be treated to something special here.