The Movie Waffler New Release Review [VOD] - GAIA | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [VOD] - GAIA

gaia review
A park ranger stumbles across a father and son living in a woods alongside sinister creatures.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jaco Bouwer

Starring: Monique Rockman, Carel Nel, Alex van Dyk, Anthony Oseyemi

gaia poster

Remember that segment of Creepshow where Stephen King played a farmer slowly morphing into a plant? Well, imagine that concept as realized by Nicolas Roeg and you'll have some idea of what to expect from director Jaco Bouwer's trippy South African eco-horror Gaia.

gaia review

Park rangers Gabi (Monique Rockman) and Winston (Anthony Oseyemi) head deep into the bush to retrieve the SD cards from the motion-activated cameras they've mounted in various spots. When the two split up, Gabi falls victim to a trap set by Barend (Carel Nel) and Stefan (Alex van Dyk), a father and son living a survivalist existence in the forest. Gabi drags her injured foot to their cabin, while Winston is chased through the woods by some unseen menace.

Barend reluctantly agrees to let Gabi stay in his home until her foot heals enough for her to return home, but he dismisses any chance of Winston still being alive. Something is in the woods, and late that night we discover just what that something is – mutated humans, their bodies turned into animal-plant hybrids by infectious spores. These creatures are blind but hunt by their sense of smell and hearing, and Gabi, Barend and Stefan find themselves defending their cabin.

gaia review

As a monster movie, Gaia has an effective setup, but it has greater ambitions on its mind. After that initial attack we never really see the creatures again as the movie shifts its focus on the more human threat of Barend, revealed as a mad scientist conducting experiments with plant life that could ultimately see humanity wiped out if he can bring his plans to fruition.

The movie becomes something of an abduction drama, as Gabi attempts to convince Stefan of his father's madness and agree to leave with her for the city. With Gabi being the first woman the teenage Stefan has set his eyes on, there's a heavy dash of Roeg-esque sexual tension added to the mix.

gaia review

For all his craziness, Barend just isn't as interesting or intimidating an antagonist as the Triffids-on-speed we initially thought would constitute the film's real villain. A well-timed rock to the back of his head would put an end to any threat he poses, but the film never even broaches such an idea.

When magic mushrooms come into play we get a lot of hallucinatory sequences that seem heavily inspired by Lars von Trier, and along with the creature effects and lush natural setting, Gaia provides more than its share of eye candy. There's much to admire on an aesthetic level here, but in storytelling terms, Gaia ultimately gets lost in the woods.

 is on UK/ROI VOD from September 27th.

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