Just barely falling under my radar, Gaia is an eco-horror film that follows a park ranger and two jungle nomads as they prepare for Mother Earth to exact vengeance on the human race through a body and mind altering fungal disease. Set in the jungles of South Africa, the film’s floral beauty is one of its strongest aspects. The melding of human flesh and plant life is haunting, yet maintains a natural beauty to it. Additionally, the psychedelic synth soundtrack lulls you into the mystery of the jungle, keeping the ever present danger lurking in the trees always in the back of your mind.
Despite its visual and audial beauty, the film unfortunately lacks the depth I hoped for a film centered around the perseverance of nature. Our characters are flat and not very memorable despite the competent performances behind them. The film also seems to rely on homages to other films, some more subtle than others. The influence of Annihilation, Evil Dead and especially the video game The Last of Us is easy to point out, but the film doesn’t try to evolve or put its own spin on these elements. Mixed with underwhelming scares and an overabundance of dream fake-outs, Gaia is at its best when it revels in its atmosphere and landscape. The final product doesn’t go far enough with its message or body horror, creating an admirable yet underwhelming cautionary tale of nature taking its planet back.