06th Sep2021

Frightfest 2021: ‘Gaia’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Monique Rockman, Alex Van Dyk, Carel Nel, Anthony Oseyemi | Written by Tertius Kapp | Directed by Jaco Bouwer

Perhaps the best horror films come from tried and tested formulas but with an added twist. In Gaia we find a woman injured and lost in a forest. In horror , that’s nothing unusual but this movie adds plenty of new ideas and manages to feel like something completely different.

This woman, Gabi (Monique Rockman), is on a surveillance mission in a forest. She loses her partner and becomes badly injured only to be ‘saved’ by a father and son, a couple of survivalists living in the forest and very connected to nature. She is scared but soon realises they might not be the only problem when the cabin they are living in is attacked by strange human-like creatures.

With the movie almost entirely set in the forest, it’s a good thing that the film-makers have made that forest look great. You really feel like you are stuck in their with the characters, almost claustrophobic despite its vastness (the small cabin helping with this). The film is expertly made in general, it not only looks great but sounds great too, a score that thumps away in the background, at times heavy and hard, as tense as what is happening on screen.

The other stand out with the style and look of Gaia is the practical effects when it comes to the elements of body horror. I don’t want to spoil too much but there’s some real creepy and, well, freaky nature-covered body horror. It made my stomach ‘go’ and made me fell as uncomfortable as any movie has in a very long time. That can only be a good thing. I loved how the use of the trees and plants are used this way and the almost final image of the movie is, despite no blood or gore, shocking.

Every glimpse of the creatures is fantastic too. They are part of that creepy body horror and are involved in some really scary and tense fight scenes. The director manages to create creatures that both horrible to look at but also not feature them so much that the viewer becomes bored of them.

I wasn’t completely sure of the relationship story between the son and woman but the writing and acting was good enough that it just about managed to work. Rockman and Alex Van Dyk both do very well. But Carel Nel as the father is the highlight. You believe absolutely everything he does and he has one of the scenes of the movies with a long speech about why they are living there and what it means to them.

Gaia is an exciting film from a director, Jaco Bouwer, who has worked predominantly in television but I will be looking out for in the future. Gaia creates some fantastic horror imagery and you won’t see many better-looking or creepier horror movies this year.

*** 3/5

Gaia screened as part of this years Arrow Video Frightfest.

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