Teenage kids behaving badly while parents are away, that is a sub-genre unto itself. Couple that with the ‘house party’ and ‘found footage’ sub-genres and it could all add up to a monster you can’t look away from, or a mega-dud no one will consider watching. So which one is Project X?

If I haven’t said it before I’ll say it now: Chronicle is the pinnacle of found footage filmmaking as far as I am concerned. That is the Mt. Everest every other shaky-cam film has to climb if it hopes to dethrone director Josh Trank’s masterful effort. And since I am not a fan of the Todd Phillips (Hangover, Due Date, Old School) sense of humour my expectations were very low. Thankfully, the man only produced this movie.

The plot is simple enough: Thomas (Thomas Mann) is a high school senior who wants to be cool, if only for one night. Egged on by bad seed Costa (Oliver Cooper) he agrees to having his birthday party at his parents’ house as long as it is kept small. Of course Costa has no intention of keeping it ‘friends only’. And before you can say, “what the hell is that in my father’s pool,” the place is overrun by kids intent on having a good time.

Jocks, nerds, psychos, cheerleaders, the unattainable women, the needy ones, they are all there. And they are all having a great time. Except for Thomas, who is paranoid that something bad is going to happen. And of course bad things do happen. Otherwise, where would the fun be?

What is impressive about Project X is the way director Nima Nourizadeh and writers  Matt Drake and Michael Bacall keep amping up the stakes. They make it a point to take things to the next level often enough that the party never gets boring. And there are special moments like the one where everyone at the party is in hiding because cops after a neighbour complained about the noise. And when they leave…boom! The party erupts, soundtracked by the Steve Aoki remix of Kid Cudi’s ‘Pursuit Of Happiness’.

Eventually though, the movie hits a spot it cannot really recover from. And perhaps this is just a mirror of the reality we live in but that end—while it felt right—left a bad taste. Maybe that says more about myself than it does about the world we live in.

Still, along with Cloverfield and Chronicle, this one makes it to my all time Top 3 found footage films ever.