Directed by JP Mandarino Starring Drew Lipson, Charlie Patton, Marco DelVecchio, & Akanimo Eyo Indie Film Review by Phil Slatter
Opening with a heavily stylised and deliberately glitched footage of a man in a mask warning us of government conspiracy, The Kaos Brief feels initially like a loud and oddly vibrant assault on the senses. However, we soon cut to Skylar (Drew Lipson), a 17 year old vlogger talking directly to camera about an upcoming trip in the mountains and it becomes clear that we are on found footage territory.
Skylar, along with his boyfriend Corey (Marco DelVecchio), twin sister Dakota (Charlie Morgan Patton) and her boyfriend Tren (Akanimo Eyo), head off on the camping trip with cameras in tow, ready to capture as much as they can for Skylar’s website. As the trip unfolds though, they see mysterious lights in the sky and odd rock formations outside their tents. So far, so Blair Witch, but as the first act closes, the quartet leave their campsite and head back home.
They do not however leave the strange occurrences behind them and before long strange men are appearing at the door, strange markings appearing on their bodies and strange lights invading the house. They’ve stumbled on something, but who, what or why is unclear to them, even if it is apparent that they are in danger.
The most unique aspect of The Kaos Brief is that this is very much rooted in science-fiction, rather than the standard horror genre. There are some scares but few jolts with both The X-Files and Close Encounters of the Third Kind being obvious references.
That we are engaged is testament to the four lead characters, all of whom give solid performances despite seeming far too old to convince as teenagers.
The main issues that arise with the film however are a common trait of the sub-genre of found footage. Few films are able to escape the question of ‘Why would a person film this?’, as filmmakers struggle to balance the need for exposition with the reality of any given situation. Despite Skylar’s setting up of many security cameras around the home, too often we’re taken out of the reality of the situation(s) by the mere fact that the camera is rolling when in reality it almost certainly would not be. Equivalent to breaking the fourth wall, it takes us out of the reality of the situation, which is oh so important in order to have full effect. It also doesn’t help that at times certain shots appear to juxtapose the actual camera's placement, especially when we’re viewing a close-up of an online conversation.
The other key flaw is that the story itself struggles to find an ending. While leaving some mystery for the audience to decipher is a good thing (and we do get some clues along the way), we’re teased into thinking more revelations will be forthcoming before a closing/post-credit sequence that might seem clever initially, but actually negates an element of the film's structure.
It’s a shame because the actors work hard, some of the footage is excellent (the lights in the mountain sky is a particularly impressive sequence, especially when you think back) and this does try and take found-footage into a slightly different genre than we’re used to. Yet by failing to break many of the stumbling blocks that so often inflict this type of film, it fails to stand out on its own.