Review: The KAOS Brief (2016)

A unique entry in the found footage genre, because some things should be left alone.

Following the success achieved by The Blair Witch Project (1999), there has been an increase in this guerrilla film making style, with film makers often trying to replicate the formula. These films may be cheaper to make, but how many times can you watch people running through the woods with a shaky camera, wondering if they’ve previously been this way, before the viewer starts feeling a sense of déjà vu. The antagonist may change in each film, but primarily the idea remains the same.

When I saw The KAOS Brief was another found footage film, I was expecting the same and for the first 15 minutes it looked as though I was going to be proven right. But thankfully the filmmakers have clearly decided to be a bit more original by setting the story in a more urban environment, which worked so much better in creating a stronger story.

The recorded footage used is controlled by aspiring vlogger Skylar (Drew Lipson), who is not afraid of the camera as he records an intimate diary of his life, which he shares with his followers. With his obsession of documenting everything, we get a much more layered approach, compared to the previous films of this genre. Utilising all forms of available video footage from handheld cameras to CCTV and even a drone camera, it really adds to the film, without making it feel excessive.

The film utilises our fascination with social media and the quest for acceptance from strangers which we may never even meet. As a society, we now live behind a camera, recording an event instead of experiencing it first hand, which we then share on social media for likes and shares. It is this vanity which forms an interesting turning point in the film. He is warned at one point not to share the images he had captured whilst camping & later receives a visit from the government. He knew at this stage what he was doing would bring unwanted attention, but in his quest for fame, this was a risk he was willing to take.

If I had one issue with the film it would be the editing, as this would have been conducted by the government agency or KAOS. After obtaining the material from all devices, they would have cut the footage to create a clear and concise version of the events. So why would they feel a need to include so much personal footage? A scene of them sitting around a camp fire discussing long distance relationships and creating a sex tape isn’t required to fully document the events that happened. I can only assume this part was included as an in-joke regarding the possible use of an anal probe.

At the end of the film there are several sub plots which never really get answered; such as the back story regarding the family or the online follower whose identity and motive is not fully explained. I can understand that this may be frustrating to audiences used to having everything signposted, but it feels as though this was done deliberately by the film makers. By leaving it open to interpretation, it really gets you thinking about the film and encourages discussion of the events that happened.

It may set off at a slow pace as a predictable found footage film, but upon adapting the formula it gives the audience something unique. Utilising the use of modern technology and our interaction of social media, director JP Mandarino manages to create a unique view of the events as they unfold. The KAOS Brief is a tense sci-fi thriller, which offers a unique conspiracy theory for those that want to believe.

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