- horror reviews - MOH 2022


IMDb Info

Release Year: 2021
Runtime: 1h 36m
Country: South Africa
Language: English, Afrikaans
Genre Tags: Drama, Fantasy, Horror
Plot Summary: An injured forest ranger on a routine mission is saved by two off-the-grid survivalists. What is initially a welcome rescue grows more suspicious as the son and his renegade father reveal a cultish devotion to the forest.

Poster - Title Card rating: notes: Sort of Annihilation meets In The Earth, which I watched last year. Visually very stylish, and plays with the aspect ratio in interesting ways. It's compelling, but doesn't amount to much. There's a story about fungus taking over the world, and turning people into mushroom monsters. There's a story about the religious zealot who worships the fungus. There's a story about the conflict that arises when a newcomer positions herself between the zealot and his son. These are all good stories, but none of them have much tension and they don't pay off in any interesting ways. I wish the script had dug into its themes more, because I want to root for its potential.

Outside Reviews:

Sheila O'Malley
3 out of 4 stars -

"Gaia" is a trip. Literally. Magic mushrooms are involved. Pop a hallucinogenic substance and the world might look something like "Gaia," where, in the Tsitsikamma forest in South Africa, a fungi of monumental proportions proliferates at night, gathering strength, threatening to take over the earth. Throw in a couple of wandering half-human half-mushroom creatures, and you've got yourself a trip and a half. Directed by Jaco Bouwer, "Gaia" has a lot to say about humanity's destruction of the environment, about the "tipping point" we have collectively reached in the Anthropocene, but the film says it with creativity, mad flights of imagination, and even humor. "Gaia" does not feel like homework. It's a thought-provoking and disturbing experience rather than a lecture.

A.A. Dowd
Grade: C+ - Bring your own mushrooms to the fungus-monster eco thriller Gaia

One might be tempted to describe Gaia as a distant, green-friendly relative of Night Of The Living Dead, given how much of the film is just a handful of characters trapped in close quarters, the simmering unease inside as potentially dangerous as the monsters outside. But such a comparison would imply more tension and claustrophobia than what we get here. The script, by Tertius Kapp, hints at a blossoming sexual attraction between the virginal Stefan and his injured guest, but that goes nowhere. The conflict mostly comes down to the boy's repressed desire to see the world versus his father's fervent belief that the world is doomed—a theoretically resonant friction that's neutralized by van Dyk's wordless, narcotized performance. (His Stefan is about as animated as a Portobello.) Even when the story takes on biblical overtones, the melodrama never blossoms. And in terms of suspense, Gaia doesn't so much tighten the screws as endlessly turn them in the wrong direction.