June 15, 2018 The KAOS Brief (Movie Review)
“Out of chaos comes order and from order the truth is revealed.” So goes the rallying cry of the anti-government hacker coalition known as KAOS, who download and share a file of footage that composes the bulk of the new Horror/Sci-Fi offering, The KAOS Brief. The film arrives to DVD and Digital on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, thanks to Gravitas Ventures.
In The KAOS Brief, a group of four seventeen year-olds head off into the woods for a camping trip over spring break. Their informal leader, Skylar (Drew Lipson: Grey’s Anatomy series, Lethal Weapon 2017), is one of these camera-whore vloggers who must capture every second of every day for his channel, Skylar TV. Along for the ride on this trip are Sky’s twin sister, Dakota (Charlie Morgan Patton: Gumption short 2012, Alongside Night 2014); her boyfriend, the muscular Tren (Akanimo Eyo: Isle of the Dead 2016, NCIS: Los Angeles series); and Sky’s boyfriend, the equally jock-ish Corey (Marco DelVecchio: Camila Cabello’s “Havana” music video, Check Point 2017).
When the foursome arrive to their campsite in the mountains of California, Sky lets slip that he has brought along his iPad, Macbook, camera, drone, and a solar panel to provide electricity for his and Corey’s tent, wherein they have string lighting. Amused and deeming his aesthetic “Geek Chic,” the group set about doing their back-to-nature things. That evening, they are awakened by Tren, who has spotted a strange configuration of three flashing blue lights in the sky.
The next day while hiking, we learn that the foursome have predictably determined the strange lights to be a tryptic of UFOs, and that night over a campfire while roasting marshmallows, they debate the existence of extra-terrestrial life. When they awake the next morning, they find a truly strange visual display beside their tents, leading the group down a series of twists and turns that will result in the appearance of Men in Black, bright blue lights, implants, sketchy family history, and much more.
Clocking in at 76 minutes in-length, The KAOS Brief was written and directed by JP Mandarino (Anastasia Lin: The Witness Project Documentary short 2016), and is a feature-length debut for the writer-director. Billed as a Horror/Sci-Fi mix, The KAOS Brief reads more like Sci-Fi without the Horror, though the story is largely told through the Found Footage (in this instance, hacked footage) format. The end result is a film that loosely blends 1993’s Fire In the Sky with 1997’s Men in Black, executes the tale in the style of 2007’s Paranormal Activity, and has none of the zest or staying power of any of the aforementioned offerings.
Where does The KAOS Brief go wrong? Well, for starters, it is not an all-bad film: plainly put, it is just a bit mundane. The background and ‘excitement’ that establish the tale – the entire portion of the film that details the spring break camping trip and the group’s wilderness exploits – are done and over with before the 20 minute-mark, creating a story that viewers are never fully-invested in. There is not enough backstory or character development in twenty minutes to ever establish a relationship between those watching the film and those detailed throughout, nor to establish any sense of urgency for the safety and survival of the group.
Beyond this, The KAOS Brief is a blend of almost every single alien-related, Sci-Fi trope, from the Men in Black to strange lights in the sky, to tracking devices implanted inside humans. Considering that all of these tropes have been done ad nauseum in a zillion other films, nothing here creates a unique spark or brings something new to the same old. Had The KAOS Brief’s script and character development been stronger, the film might have held its own as an median-level, low-budget Sci-Fi offering, however, as it stands, The KAOS Brief is simply forgettable.
That is where the cast come into play. With a flimsy base to sit upon, the four main actors that compose the overwhelming bulk of The KAOS Brief’s scenes are left to carry a sinking ship upon their shoulders. As lead character Skylar, Lipson is appropriately annoying at times (as a wannabe online celebrity should be), though he balances this with a sense of quiet intelligence and technological know-how that provides his group with ammo to attempt to investigate their precarious situation. His character is certainly not well-rounded or properly developed, but Lipson does his best with what is provided and at least treads water throughout the production. In their supporting roles, Patton, Eyo, and DelVecchio are given next to nothing to work with; they are merely corroborative witnesses to the bizarre events unfolding around them.
Filmed in California, The KAOS Brief attempts to author a spine-tingling tale of government conspiracy and cover-up, one that leaves an unwitting group of youngsters embroiled in something that goes way over their heads. Unfortunately, due to poor pacing and a flimsy script, the end result is a film that is simply boring and never develops anything that builds a sense of urgency or fear. It is not a horrible flop of a film, sure, and the cast do their best with their flat roles, but none of this can save The KAOS Brief from being much more than eighty-minutes of watching security camera footage of blue lights and men in business suits. For these reasons, CrypticRock give The KAOS Brief 2.5 of 5 stars.