REVIEW: The KAOS Brief
– By Sooz Webb
In a lot of ways, The Blair Witch Project has a sin to answer for. Since the release of that trendsetting film, we’ve had a plethora of copycats, all hoping to capture a taste of its success. Some have been hits, some have been shit, but I think it’s fair to say that eyes now roll when we hear the fatal phrase ‘found footage’. And so, it was with trepidation, that I watched The KAOS Brief, expecting to sit through more of the same old twaddle. What unfolded was as unexpected as an alien probe. I mean that in a positive way, if you can imagine it. So clench those cheeks, put on your tinfoil hat and tuck into that mashed potato mountain. A truth is out there, and it’s that there’s life in the subgenre yet.
Mobile technology has made the premise of documentary style filmmaking more grounded in reality, with people uploading banality such as what they’ve had for breakfast between an endless stream of cat gifs on a daily basis. (Yes I’m guilty of that. And yes, I’m a hypocrite. I’m well aware of it). Vying for social media stardom is vlogger Skyler, a chap who’s Youtube channel is a hotbed of trout pout and annoying sign off. As a special treat to his subscribers, he’s promised to film the camping trip he has planned for the weekend. Accompanied by his boyfriend Corey, twin sister Dakota and her other half Tren, they set off laden with more recording equipment than your local Maplin, for a rural ‘unplugged’ break.
For a while, everything is hunky dory. S’mores are roasting gently, the couples get cozy by the fire and turn their attention to the stars. Only, what they’re looking at, ain’t no celestial body. With his camera ever present Skylar captures the strange lights on film, delighted at the prospect of just how famous the footage is going to make him. It’s not until morning that the quartet wake to find some gravity defying, Blair Witch inspired art installations surrounding their campsite, and we begin to think ‘Uh-oh. Here we go’. But smart-arse apathy soon gives way to joyous realization, as the crew pack up, get in the car and make it back home, without even a sniff of malicious presence.
Of course, a horror movie without any horror is just a movie, and strange things start to occur once the material is uploaded to the web. The kids start to find weird markings on their bodies, tracking devices under their skin and creepy men in black suits keep demanding to speak to them in the wee small hours of the morning. The tension builds as the gang start to crack under pressure, and we spiral into subterfuge that would make Fox Mulder squee with anticipation.
The KAOS Brief is a film that sneaks up on us. All the concepts are familiar, and we think we know how it’s going to play out, yet it subverts expectation at every turn. The tropes are interwoven into a narrative that constantly reveals different elements, and builds until we’re unsure exactly what to believe, who to trust or how the characters can survive. Using SFX and gore sparingly, the fear is psychological, and we revel in the horror of the unknown. The kids lack control over the situation, and can be physically manipulated by an outside force, a thought that scares the bejeezus out of us! It’s the believability of the cast that really drives the story forward. Although they start off as shallow, narcissistic teens, the facade soon crumbles, and we empathise with their predicament, as tense and clueless as they are, concerned for their wellbeing, and the underlying implications of the films diegesis. We see a conspiratorial truth within JP Mandarino’s script, made all the more realistic by the way it’s shot, edited and introduced to us as hacktivist footage unearthed from the Edward Snowden files.
An enthralling Sci-fright thriller that may make you question the outdoors lifestyle, with a lesson learned about what you share online, the film throws us down the rabbit hole and shows an unsettling scenario. One that’s not too much of a stretch to believe. Combining conspiracies, consternation and chaps from the constellations, The KAOS Brief is ingenuitive, invigorating and unnerving. And that’s declassified.