We've reached a point where all the classic movie monsters of old have been declawed and wimp-ified. Vampires are no longer immortal blood-sucking fiends using sex to lure you to your deat.
Instead they're angst-filled teenage romance stories like Twilight or The Vampire Diaries. Werewolves don't fare much better (although one could argue the writing was on the wall after Michael J. Fox did Teen Wolf). Freakish mutants are heroes now (X-Men), and scientific creations like Frankestein lost a lot of punch when we cloned that sheep. Dragons and lizards and monsters star in cartoons that entertain our kids rather than scare the crap out of them.
Flaky ghost hunters on TV ruined the supernatural and even aliens are all starting to look the same — like bugs. Technology and artificial intelligence are so ingrained in our lives (AutoCorrect, Google-targeted marketing) that the idea of machines taking control doesn't freak us out as much as it should.
Zombies are still scary but they suffer from overexposure. From Monsters Inc. to the "Monster High" ghoul, vamp, and devil Barbie-style dolls collected by eight-year-old girls, our classic horror creatures are so common, and commoditized, they no longer induce the shivers and chills we as a society need to keep ourselves in check. We clearly need new monsters.
The good news is this has happened before, back in the early '60s, and Hitchcock saved the day. Psycho revealed that the real monster is us, or at least the mentally deranged amongst us. Of course, 50 years later, the psychotic villain is also pretty played out..
There's good money in fear, however, so Hollywood keeps trying. Profit-hungry corporations, deranged religious fanatics and corrupt politicians make great villains in thrillers and procedural dramas but they don't do too much when you're sitting around the campfire.
We need monsters that lurk in the dark, that jump out and drag off the unsuspecting. Monsters that will suck the marrow from our bones and inject pure evil into our loved ones' blood.
Perhaps producer Todd Phillips (The Hangover, Old School) has found the answer. This week he introduces a new monster for a new millennium—the average teenager.
Spoiled, lazy kids riding a wave of self-entitlement, enabled by lazy parents who can't be bothered to take a hard line on anything — these might just be the new monsters of our time. The apathy of youth reflects society's own failures and you can see these horrifically terrible creatures at their finest in Project X, which (hopefully) opens locally this week.
Project X is one of those faux-documentaries, a "found footage" movie that's something like Blair Witch meets Kids in an updated hybrid of Dazed and Confused, House Party and Superbad. The plot is simple and universal — parents leave town and kids have a "small gathering" which turns out to be a bit larger than expected. It's kids behaving badly (and having the time of their lives).
Phillips, who seems to thrive on social chaos, teams with unproven director Nima Nourizadeh to deliver what looks like an hour and a half of utter chaos, total carnage and the greatest house party ever (complete with teenage sex, explosions, drugs, liquor and a nut-punching midget).
That the "found-footage" concept looks and feels incredibly real only helps prove the point of this R-Rated masterpiece. We are the monsters and our children are the things that go bump in the night. Not as good as a swamp creature but for now it will have to do.