With a tiny cast and modest budget, Gaia (2021) isn’t overwhelmingly impressive, but it gets considerable mileage out of its striking visual effects and picturesque landscapes. Set in a remote South African forest, this chiller chronicles the experience of forestry service employees Gabi (Monique Rockman) and Winston (Anthony Oseyemi), who are out servicing wildlife cameras along a river. When Gabi’s drone mysteriously crashes, she separates from the boat to retrieve it and stumbles into the treacherous world of two mysterious survivalists (Carel Nel and Alex Van Dyk), who are privy to a disturbing, fantastical secret about the forest.
Gaia isn’t a particularly scary horror film, but it’s gorgeously shot and makes great use of remote landscapes, creepy prosthetics, and strategic CGI to bring a unique and effective brand of allegory to its dark fantasy environmentalism. Performing in a mix of English and Afrikaans, the actors do well with a minimalist script, with Rockman standing out charismatically in the lead. This one reminded me a little of Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout, and while it’s not quite as artful or memorable as that film, it’s well worth watching for the mindful way it touches on similar themes.