And for The Hangover fans – director Todd Phillips produces this time – there is an even greater sense of the party boys being plunged into the virtual unknown that’s vibrant to watch. It’s also a stark lesson in the perils of social media – phone hacking aside.
Three ‘invisible’ High School seniors, Thomas, Costa and JB – acting unknowns Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper and Jonathan Daniel Brown respectably – get Thomas’s family home to themselves for a weekend while his parents are away. They plan to celebrate Thomas’s 17th birthday in style with a ‘few’ people over. Trouble is no one knows (or cares) that they really exist – expect perhaps Thomas’s female childhood friend, Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton). Cocksure Costa decides to spread the word around the school, all caught on first-person camera by mysterious operator Dax (played by Dax Flame who we hear rather than see for most of the film). However, what starts out as a few people turns into an absolute riot as things spiral out of control and word of the party spreads, the likes of which the quiet, family suburb of Pasadena has never seen before.
If you enter into this film’s environment shirking all grown-up inhibitions and mundane responsibilities at the door you’ll get the most out of it. Curiously, as a result, there is a nagging sense of conscience that develops as things escalate. Birthday boy Thomas is our prompter of this throughout the film and our link with some form of order, before he’s sucked into the chaos that grows. Project X does start out like any other high school ‘loser’ flick where we’re expected to rally behind the misfits – however misogynistic and revolting they may appear, purely because everyone likes an underdog to triumph and gain popularity.
Like a YouTube video that can be watched only once for full, fresh effect, Project X is a collective experience, and is not trying to be another American Pie or Superbad, contrary to critics: There are no clever gags from the latter or slapstick, coming-of-age set-pieces. This film attempts to deliver a feasible self-documenting style favoured by a lot of cult films at the moment – like Chronicle, adding plausible scenarios to the mix like a rampant party virus. Thankfully, there is no migraine inducing 88-minutes worth of shaky hand-held footage either for those still reeling from their Cloverfield experience.
It’s abundantly clear to see debut feature director Nima Nourizadeh’s pedigree in pop videos and commercials from its style, with some scenes of nubile young ladies jigging up and down in slow-mo like on some continuous MTV rap-video playlist – and bad boy Eminem plays out the end credits. Nourizadeh actually mixes and matches a variety of filmic styles to portray different emotions within a first-person view. As for plot, it attempts at mini subplots and does suffer from the unavoidable genre clichés. There is also a gnawing sense of what’s happened to the rest of the neighbourhood; have they all gone deaf when the law fails to curb the revellers’ enthusiasm after an earlier warning? The film also has its token nutty oddballs, like a security measure.
That said Mann, Cooper and Brown are excellent as newcomers in different ways: Cooper is blessed with great comic delivery sure to get him noticed by the extended Apatow gang for future projects. Mann is reminiscent of some vulnerable, gangly, guilt-ridden Michael Cera or Jesse Eisenberg, but devoid of clever retorts in this and simply tasked with ‘playing your average naïve kid’ in an escalating situation.
As for the music, any clubber will be downloading the soundtrack as soon as it becomes available, as true to his music video roots, Nourizadeh makes sure the visuals match the tracks, and the beat like some war cry for a ‘forgotten generation’ carries on pulsing like a life force, growing in size and fearlessness. This dramatically energises events more, and is a big part of the film’s impact.
Overall Project X is one guilty pleasure, mindless escapism that offers some mixed – and some unexpected – messages at the end that make for alarming but intriguing post-viewing debate. Naturally, some will question the responsibility of the filmmakers themselves. Not sure if the ‘what happens next’ histories are necessary, as well as the soggy ‘after-party’ souvenir. But you’ll be glad you got the invite and had the time of your life – without suffering the hangover from hell.