Three high school outsiders attempt to make a name for themselves by throwing an epic party in Project X, a new comedy produced by The Hangover director Todd Phillips. It's Thomas's (Thomas Mann) 18th birthday, and to mark the occasion he's spurred on by his pal Costa (Oliver Cooper) and the awkward JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) to make the most of his parents' plush home for one wild night.
Documenting it all through a video camera is creepy goth Dax (Dax Flame), glimpsed fleetingly in garb that makes him look like Neo from The Matrix. It's really through the lens of director Nima Nourizadeh that the audience gets its vantage point, landing on the front lines of a party that spirals rapidly out of control.
It's easy to admire these ambitions, but Project X's intriguing setup is one of the few things it has going for it. It's a film that will sharply divide audiences due to its unappealing characters and the fact that, despite being labelled a comedy, it doesn't actually have any jokes in its armoury.
Project X's central trio are paper thin and lacking the rounded personalities of the endearing characters at the heart of comedy genre stablemates such as American Pie, Superbad and The Inbetweeners Movie. If those movies are the high watermark for modern teen films, then Project X tilts sharply in the other direction. Costa, in particular, lends this movie an emphatic cruel streak. He's an abusive and horrible teen whose streetwise Brooklyn attitude can't disguise the fact that he's a walking cliché (if this movie was in 3D, you'd want to reach out and throttle him).
In the film, news travels fast about the shindig and before long it escalates into a full-scale street party. There's booze, gratuitous nudity, sex, animal cruelty, a midget getting stuffed in an oven and pill-popping before things get out of hand and anarchy erupts. It's at this juncture that the documentary aesthetic quickly slips away and the film starts to break all its own rules with newsfeed footage and rapid cutting to resemble a conventional action film.
Project X also carries a dubious moral code, with an entire neighbourhood flattened all in the name of having a good time. Some of John Hughes's great teen comedies dealt with maturing people who were able to realise their mistakes and learn from them. In Project X the central trio are celebrated for their achievements, and considering how mean-spirited this movie is it leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth.