The perfect horror film for a world obsessed with social media and personal recording devices, JP Mandarino’s The KAOS Brief satisfies the voyeuristic tendencies of today’s connected and online audience.
What begins as a hactivist message quickly diverges into a clever found footage film shot with phones, security cameras, and a few DJI quadcopter drones. Drew Lipson plays Skyler, a social media-obsessed vlogger who broadcasts his daily life to his thousands of subscribers on his YouTube channel. Skyler and his partner Corey (Marco DelVecchio) decide to kick off their spring break on a brief camping excursion with Skyler’s twin sister Dakota (Charlie Morgan Patton) and her boyfriend Tren (Akanimo Eyo), setting up the perfect opportunity for a variety of new vlog entries, as well as a relaxing and fun getaway.
The foursome gleefully jumps in the car and heads for the forest, Skyler quite possibly outfitted with more cameras than pairs of underpants. However, one of Skyler’s cameras eventually captures a series of bizarre and extraordinary moments, prompting the group to question the presence of alien life or some other form of unwanted visitor. Making a quick exit back home, Skyler quickly pulls his footage together and starts posting the footage to his vlog for the world to see.
Skyler begins to receive ominous instant messages from a mysterious person, warning him of the dangers of posting his videos. Shrugging it off as nothing more than a jealous internet troll, Skyler ignores the warnings and continues to tell the story of things he saw during his camping weekend and the days afterward. Unfortunately, this only opens the gate for more strange and frightening occurrences, putting Skyler and his three companions through the strangest spring break they’ll ever know. Days later, the quartet remains huddled together in the house, with far more questions than answers.
Mandarino should be commended for his writing, weaving together 4 unique characters with a level of realism that is often left out of budget horror films. Each character reacts to the events that befall them with authenticity and honesty, experiencing feelings such as fear, rage, and regret, which suit the personalities of each appropriately. The audience rarely questions the actions of the quartet, whether it’s Skyler increasing the number of security cameras on his home or Corey running shirtless after mysterious visitors with a weapon in hand.
Though short in length, The KAOS Brief is certainly worth a watch and a bucket of popcorn. Tension builds slowly throughout JP Mandarino’s film, culminating in an ending sequence that fits the story, though may seem a disappointment to some. Regardless, Mandarino’s few shortfalls are easily overcome by the attention to detail and meticulous scripting crafted for a modern audience that knows and lives in an online world.