by Kam Williams
College Kids Vanish without a Trace inside Abandoned Mansion in Found-Footage Horror Flick
There is often a fine line between paying homage and plagiarizing. Unfortunately, that isn't the case with The Final Project, a shameless ripoff of The Blair Witch Project, the micro-budgeted horror flick which inaugurated the "found footage" genre back in 1999.
Besides having the word "Project" in the title, this pseudo documentary also revolves around a group of film students who mount an ill-fated expedition in search of an evil spirit. In Blair, they were looking for a witch said to have been terrorizing a rural region of Maryland for several centuries. Over the vociferous objections of wizened local yokels familiar with the legend, the kids pressed on with their mission deep into the woods where they eventually vanished without a trace, leaving behind only the inscrutable video furnishing the footage for the movie.
Because The Blair Witch Project netted nearly a quarter billion dollars at the box office after being shot for a measly $60,000, it spawned a cottage industry of imitators, none of which ever quite measured up to the original. This latest attempt to cash-in on the concept was written, produced and directed by Taylor Ri'chard.
Taylor apparently wore a lot more hats here, including visual and digital effects, which is par for the course for a horror flick of such modest means. It's just too bad that he lifted so many ideas from Blair, otherwise I'd probably be lauding his efforts as a decent outing by a first-time director.
The Final Project is set on Lafitte Plantation in the tiny town of Vacherie, Louisiana. The notorious estate is known for miles around as being haunted by the ghosts of a family matriarch buried on the premises as well as by a quartet of Union soldiers who perished there during the Civil War.
The film unfolds at the University of Southwestern Louisiana where we find a half-dozen film majors in need of extra credits to pass a course. After their professor (Robert McCarley) approves an outing to Vacherie in search of the spooks, the classmates pack their gear and depart for the abandoned mansion.
Their last chance to turn around and avert disaster rests in listening to the sage store clerk (Tiffany Ford) they encounter en route. She issues the proverbial dire warning "Abandon hope all ye who enter here!" But, of course, they ignore the suggestion and make their way to the abandoned mansion.
Gradually, the six, Genevieve (Arin Jones), Misty (Amber Erwin), Anna (Teal Haddock), Charles (Charles Orr), Gavin (Sergio Suave) and Ky (Evan McLean), are picked off one-by-one, and all the clues to solving their mysterious disappearance are contained on their cameras left behind.
A faux student film which looks a lot like, well, a lot like a student film.
Good (2 stars)
Running time: 82 minutes
Distributor: Cavu Pictures