Project X (2012)

28 Jan


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Project X” is a loud, obnoxious teensploitation movie that at some points reminded me of the offensive, tasteless moments in “Porky’s”…but also the finer moments in “The Hangover,” “Superbad,” and “Animal House.” At times when I was nearly feeling unclean or rolling my eyes in disbelief, I have to admit I laughed, but more importantly, I marveled at the film’s bravery to go the extra mile. Going the extra mile in a teen movie like this should make me hate it, but instead, I found “Project X” to be funny, nicely-made, and even intense when it needed to be.

The film is presented in the “found-footage” concept, which I have to admit I am growing tired of with each film using this format—films like “Blair Witch Project,” “Cloverfield,” “Paranormal Activity,” and even “Chronicle,” a film released a month before this one. “Project X” is mostly seen through the point of view of a video camera used to document the ultimate, “game-changing” house party.

It starts out as a birthday party for likable, average high-schooler Thomas (Thomas Mann), whose parents leave him in charge of the house for a couple of days. You know the drill—throw a party, get in trouble, raise some hell, and clean it all up before the parents return. We’ve seen all this before; it can be traced back to “Risky Business” in 1983.

The hosts are the overweight, geeky, glasses-wearing J.B. (Jonathan Brown) and the loud, crude, vulgar, loathsome, sweater-vest-wearing Costa (Oliver Cooper). They recruit an AV Club member named Dax (Dax Flame) to bring a camera around and record the party. Thus, we see the setup to the event—the parents leaving, Thomas forced to drive Mom’s minivan to school, Costa sending texts to everyone in school to show up at the party, as well as Costa constantly bragging about getting laid. I’m serious—this kid never shuts up. He’s probably the most unlikeable teenage-movie jerk you’ll ever come across, and you just want to hit him with a blunt object. Things don’t get much better with him, such as whenever something is damaged, he constantly says he can fix it; “no problem.”

Then we have the party—we have beer, we have drunk teenagers dancing and making fools of themselves, and we get more than three montages of them having a great time to a heavy soundtrack. (These montages grow monotonously with each one.) But we also have some trouble, like you’d expect from…well, every teenage house-party movie. There are too many people than expected (“Of course; it’s ‘plus-one,’” Costa explains to Thomas), a few freshmen try to sneak into the party, and Thomas attempts to get lucky with the popular girl in school, not realizing that his best girl-pal Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton) is the right one for him. When will we—er, I mean, he—ever learn?!

That’s how the party starts out, if you can believe it. As the night goes on, like you’d expect, things go wrong. But in the case with “Project X,” things go very, very wrong. In fact, the movie becomes less of a comedy and more of a horror movie. Things get more intense, mostly unbelievable, with each new twist in the event. And to be honest…that’s kind of funny. Not knowing what’s going to happen, and just knowing that every new occurrence is going to be worse than the last one, makes “Project X” a cross between “Risky Business” and “Cloverfield.” Everything you couldn’t think of going wrong goes wrong here. And I won’t give anything away.

And the way the party ends—the final five minutes of the event—is just crazy. It’s so exaggerated and so violent that I realize that I did not merely see a teenage comedy—I saw a teenage horror movie. It’s so “out there,” but I loved it. And the point-of-view of the video camera really adds to the intensity.

Why did I like “Project X” when I despised the same material that made teensploitation films like “Porky’s” so popular? I think the main reason I liked the film was because with all the craziness that occurs in this movie (the party becomes a life-endangering event rather than just a drunken, loud, naked, sex-crazed house party), this is that rare teen film in which every dangerous deed has consequences. And no consequences will ever be as memorable as the aftermath of a crazed druggie with a flamethrower.

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