Project X, released by producer Todd Phillips of The Hangover, The Hangover Part 2 and Old School fame, and follows three teenagers who try to throw a ‘game-changing’ party and increase their popularity at school and use that to ‘hook up’ with hot chicks. Project X was a place-holder name for the film while it went into production, but the mysteriousness of it all convinced the film-makers to keep it. They ran an open call to get an entire cast of unknown actors and young people to help simulate a real house party and the three leads were sent away to Disneyland to give their interaction a truthful edge.
Thomas (Thomas Mann) is turning 17 and his parents are leaving him alone for the whole weekend. His friend Costa (Oliver Cooper) wants to throw a huge party that will establish them as popular in a high school where they are almost totally ignored. With the help of a third friend, JB (Jonathan Brown) and almost entirely silent cameraman Dax (Dax Flame) the trio want to document the party for posterity. After run-ins with drug-dealers and former popular kids from school, they setup the house and the party begins, to catastrophically huge levels.
Project X is of the Found Footage genre as all events are recorded on handheld camera by one of the characters and the key action is neatly shot from outside rooms and buildings that give it an almost stalker-like edge. It’s creepy, subversive and well handled. Narratively, Project X is weak. There’s an extended period before the party starts that is almost entirely devoid of laughs, which is almost enough to lose the audience. Then once the party begins, the escalating events become funnier and more laugh-out-loud. The narrative is almost entirely forgotten, but Project X is not a film that needs a strong story and can rely on stereotypes and caricatures to place the action, although an edit of about 15 minutes would have helped the chaotic flow throughout, thus avoiding the terrible lulls in the action.
Project X has plenty about it to cause moral outrage and disgust. There’s blatent mysogony, glorification of drugs and alcohol abuse, entitled surburban teens running wild with a casual disregard to the law and a nihilistic approach to the consequences of their actions. It treats everyone and everything with a level of mean-spirited humour and dark, bullying attitudes as to make it difficult for the audience to like anything about it. Yet somehow, the main trio in Project X do win you over, these are three disaffected young teens, who don’t understand the consequences of their actions, but they do understand that they are unpopular and they have one shot to change it, and they go for it.
Like the London riots of 2011 and the now notorious ‘Facebook Party’ it highlights three teens who do not care about their futures; taking drugs, drinking and having sex with no regard for how it might affect others or indeed themselves. However, it makes no apologies and just keeps upping the ante until the neighbourhood is on fire and the community is thrown into chaos and anarchy. It’s actually refreshing to see something so morally bankrupt really just cutting loose and showing a party that secretly we all wish we could throw.
Project X will offend more people than it will engage, but as a stand-alone piece of film-making it throws itself into pure anarchy like no other, not afraid to show casual drug-abuse that will shock audiences, but probably shouldn’t as it is an actual problem and has been for years. More like the Animal House of the iPhone generation than like Old School or The Hangover, Project X ignores the conventions of narrative film-making to present a debauched and immoral display of carnage and abuse that bears no equal and does so to a thumping soundtrack that will no doubt be the house party playlist of the summer.