The KAOS Brief Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Written and Directed by JP Mandarino
2016, 80 minutes, Not yet rated
Sci-Fi London premiere on 4th May 2017
Drew Lipson as Skylar
Charlie Morgan Patton as Dakota
Marco DelVecchio as Corey
Akanimo Eyo as Tren
When vlogger Skylar spots a set of mysterious lights in the sky during a camping trip with his boyfriend, sister and her boyfriend, his first instinct is to upload it on YouTube. Turns out the Men in Black don’t like that, and soon the lot of them are being stalked by a group of mysterious government operatives determined to shut them up. It’s less a case of ‘why are they still recording this?’, more ‘why would you keep uploading this to YouTube?!’
As with The Blair Witch Project and so many after it (most recently including, um Blair Witch), The KAOS Brief begins with weird sculptures and a trip to the woods. But this is far from your average found footage movie. So much so that, halfway in, I began to wonder whether it would even end with a character being dragged off, kicking and screaming away from the camera. While its cutting-edge filmmaking has already been done before (if you can film on it, chances are somebody’s already made a found footage film with it), the story is unlike anything we’ve seen before in a found footage movie. It helps writer and director JP Mandarino’s cause greatly that almost every other found footage film to employ Facetime/Skype/vlogging in their narrative has been abjectly atrocious (The Den aside).
It is also appreciated that the characters here are a generally likeable bunch (I know, I never expected to be saying that about a vlogger either), mostly eschewing the usual senseless screaming and shouting at each other which tends to pass for writing in this sort of thing in favour of conversation and debate. It’s progressive in the other sense of the word too, with a depiction of a gay relationship – still massively lacking across the board in cinema today – that actually allows its leading men to kiss and display genuine affection for each other. Two men being able to casually kiss a handful of times in a found footage sci-fi movie shouldn’t feel like a big triumph, but here we are.
Largely avoiding the pitfalls and pratfalls of its subgenre, The KAOS Brief is one of the better examples of found footage cinema. It’s well-lit, well-acted and a story well told, with an interesting mystery at its centre and decent, sparingly used effects. It’s unlikely that it’ll win over resolute found footage enemies (although it did a good job on me) but there’ll be plenty who will appreciate its charms. And, at 80 minutes, the chaos (with a ‘k’, because ‘edgy’, I guess) is at least, ahem, brief. The ‘KAOS’ element of the story, by the way, is by far its weakest and silliest. Thankfully it’s so tacked-on it barely even affects the narrative at all.
Does it still end with a character being dragged off, kicking and screaming away from the camera? That would be telling; while it does devolve a little into the usual genre shenanigans, everything it does, it does on its own terms. A genuinely fun, smart and original found footage movie that this self-proclaimed hater actually liked? Somebody call Mulder and Scully indeed.