Project X

Fri, Mar 2, 2012, 00:00

Directed by Nima Nourizadeh. Starring Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Nichole Bloom, Alexis Knapp 18 cert, gen release, 88 min

TAKE a few Dramamine, it’s yet another found- footage movie. Once again some unseen citizen finds himself soberly filming an attack by angry trolls, possessed teenagers or giant lizards.

Hang on. That’s not right. This relentlessly revolting film turns out to be a rare found-footage comedy.

Detailing the progress of a disastrous teenage party, Project X(even the title suggests science fiction) aims to bring a vérité aesthetic to the world of gross-out farce. It begins in John Hughes territory with a young nerd (Thomas Mann) being left alone while his parents set off on an anniversary jaunt. He is told not to touch his dad’s car, enter his home office or make mischief in the pool. You will not need to be told that car, office and pool all receive a fairly rigorous going-over.

As is the way with these things, the hero and his friends – one a smooth operator, the other an obese layabout – are from the lowest caste in the perennially terrifying high-school dictatorship. Gifted a free house, they see the inevitable party as a way of moving several rungs up the ladder.

Project Xnever encounters anything you could call a plot: the party starts off badly, gets wilder and ends in total calamity. An unhealthy strain of misogyny runs through the dialogue, and the film- makers’ unquestioning acceptance of high-school one-upmanship fairly turns the stomach.

But the film does have a certain impure purity to it. Stripped of nuance, structure and counterpoint, Project X is almost experimental in its mad focus on escalating debauchery. And, boy, does it escalate. By the close, many hundreds of people have gathered on the suburban Pasadena street while helicopters hover inquisitively. The trees are on fire. The police fire rubber bullets.

Come to think of it, Project Xhas more in common with found-footage monster movies than initially meets the eye. It’s Cloverfieldfor The Hangovercrowd.