J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Final Project: Yet More Found Footage

There are several kinds of plantations to be found in Louisiana. The classic antebellum style is very different from the Creole variety.  Some are also haunted. This is definitely one of those. A team of college students armed with video cameras will try to spend the night there in Taylor Ri’chard’s The Final Project (trailer here), which opens this Friday in Houston and Atlanta.

Guess what true believers. Something terrible happened at the old plantation, but the six students managed to capture it all on film. It seems one of them went kind of nuts, causing no end of embarrassment, especially for the mortified family member who introduces the screening.

In order to graduate, Genevieve Richard, her BFF, her current and previous BFs, a TA, a meathead, and a ditz must make a hand-held shaky-cam documentary of their night in spook central, because Recording Gruesome Deaths 101 was not exactly the blow-off class she was hoping for. Naturally, there is all sorts of jealousy and resentment going on causing Richard to walk out in a huff, just as things start getting strange.

Actually, Project is far less graphic than most horror films. Frankly, the ghosts or grudge-holding entities make short work of their victims, so at least we can say they don’t play with their food. The framing device, featuring the pixelated Ri’chard is not bad either. However, characterization of any sort is problematically thin and the ensemble no-name cast is serviceable, at best.
Such levels of mediocrity are not ideal, but in this genre, they are not absolutely fatal Achilles Heels. Found footage films of vary quality, including
JeruZalem, Hollows Grove, Classroom 6, Creep, and the original Grave Encounters have helped themselves tremendously with their creepy locations. Unfortunately, the atmosphere of the plantation is just okay. That means Ri’chard cannot earn any easy points simply by soaking up the ambiance.

In just about every respect, Project is barely good enough to get by with a little help, but nothing the cast and crew contribute are special enough to distinguish the film from the pack. When you get right down to it, the film is pretty bland, which has to be the worst possible thing you can say about a horror movie.

There are way more plantation horrors in 1970s slavery exploitation films and considerably more enjoyable chills in JeruZalem and Grave Encounters 1. In contrast, The Final Project is a rather workaday effort that mostly goes through the motions. Simply not distinctive enough to recommend or despise, The Final Project opens tomorrow (2/12) in Houston at the Edwards Greenway and in the Atlanta area at the Regal Hollywood, Town Center, and Mall of Georgia.

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