Partially based on a real house party that occurred in Melbourne in 2008, where the then-sixteen-year-old Australian teenager, Corey Worthington, posted his home address on MySpace, attracting around five-hundred people to his home and subsequently causing over $20,000 in property damage. 2012’s Project X undeniably has its flaws, yet through its efficacious use of the found-footage format and fantastically over-the-top narrative, this teen comedy is a surprisingly engaging watch. Standing as one of the rare entries in the found-footage genre to feature no horror content whatsoever, Project X will no doubt repel some older audience members on account of its typically teenage characters and near-constant use of foul language. Yet, for the younger generation, this comedic flick will maintain its appeal thanks to its terrific utilisation of its central concept and real-world inspirations.
Plot Summary: As their tenure as high school seniors draws to a close, two friends, Costa and JB, attempt to finally make a name for themselves by throwing a life-changing birthday party for their friend, Thomas. But, as word of their prodigious house party spreads online, the situation quickly begins to spiral out of control as the guest list rises rapidly…
Directed by Nima Nourizadeh (American Ultra) and produced by Todd Philips, director of many renowned comedies, including The Hangover, Old School and War Dogs. Project X mines the depths of the teen comedy and found-footage genres to deliver eighty-seven minutes of enjoyable debauchery, with its runtime largely consisting of music video-type sequences that fully indulge in the colourful chaos of a neighbourhood-spanning party. And while some moments, such as a scene where a dwarf makes his way through Thomas’ house punching various partygoers in their crotches, could be seen as rather far-fetched, other moments are unexpectedly hilarious thanks to their increasing absurdity. That being so, I would encourage first-time viewers to blindly go into Project X so they can experience many of the film’s surprises first-hand.
The comradery between the central three friends desperately tries to recall those in quintessential teen comedies like Superbad and American Pie, but unlike those earlier films, the leading trio of Thomas, Costa and JB can occasionally come across as somewhat repugnant, despite being sufficiently portrayed by Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper and Jonathan Daniel Brown, respectively. This is primarily due to the characters being written as authentic teenagers, depicting them as immature, foul-mouthed, impassioned youths who are clearly lacking in favour at their local high school. And whilst none of the characters receive much development beyond this basic level of characterisation, I feel that unlikeability in some scenes is just a repercussion of making the trio seem like genuine teenagers bearing teenage traits. That’s not to say, however, that you don’t feel sorry for Thomas once he starts to panic at the sight of his house being defiled, evidently suffering the consequences of submitting to his friends’ grand scheme.
Shot on a set instead of a real neighbourhood to minimise local disruption, a decision that proved to be a wise one as the set was essentially trashed during production. The cinematography by Ken Seng is realistically shaky and boisterous similar to many other found-footage films, yet still manages to be clear enough to impressively place the audience in the middle of Thomas’ larger-than-life birthday extravaganza. Moreover, to add to the realism, some pieces of footage were shot by the supporting cast with handed-out phones, which all varied in quality or retained visual distinctions to stand out. Another reason Project X looks as captivating as it does is a product of the film’s excellent use of colour, which steadily grows in variation as the party grows in size, making great use of the dynamic lighting setups Costa hires out for the party.
Lacking an original score as a result of its found-footage format, Project X places much of its auditory focus on its remarkable soundtrack, as dance songs like Pursuit of Happiness, Heads Will Roll and Le Disko perfectly match the upbeat, stimulating atmosphere of a congested house party. And although the film places some of its songs over sequences where non-diegetic music shouldn’t really be present, such as a tumultuous moment in which a riot ensues and the rock song, Battery by Melltaica, is heard. I am willing to ignore that irritation on the basis that the songs chosen for each scene feel more than suitable, adding to the underlining sensation of each sequence, whether that be chaotic or cordial.
Interestingly, many of the minor antics throughout Project X were improvised by the supporting cast, including a scene where a female partygoer gets caught urinating behind a car. Many of these moments add to the pandemonium of the story, appearing inspired by scenarios the filmmakers found themselves in at actual house parties. These short, humourous shots also help redeem the screenplay’s handful of on-the-nose dialogue, especially from minor characters like Thomas’ parents before they leave for the weekend.
In summary, even though the mere notion of Project X will almost certainly turn off any audience members over the age of twenty-five, considering that the plot revolves around dancing and consuming various substances until 05:00 am. I am keen to encourage those on the fence to give the film a chance, as I believe Project X thrives as a teen comedy and will leave many feeling as if they’ve just attended the most epic house party in existence. Rating: 7/10.