Film Review: The Final Project

Six college students learn that making a documentary about a notorious haunted house isn't the quick and simple shortcut to an easy A they imagined in this formulaic but atmospheric found-footage shocker.
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University of Southern Louisiana film students Anna (Teal Haddock), Genevieve (Arin Jones), Misty (Amber Erwin), Jonah (Leonardo Santaiti), Ky (Evan McLean) and Gavin (Sergio Suave) have known each other since freshman year and have weathered their share of imprudent hookups, awkward aftermaths and friendship-testing rivalries. But come senior year they're all still friends and aim to work together on an awesome final project: They're going to make a documentary about Vacherie, Louisiana's notoriously haunted Lafitte Plantation which, despite various efforts to package it as a genteel tourist attraction, retains an evil reputation as a place with seriously bad juju.

Accompanied by the unseen Charles (Charles Orr), who regularly serves as cinematographer on final-year movie projects, the friends set out to spend a night at the plantation, hoping to capture some spooky footage they can cut together with run-of-the-mill location shots and stand-ups into a presentation that will score A+ grades for all.

Anna quickly establishes herself as the top girl; Gen stakes her claim as the local who knows the history of the community, and Misty claims out her turf as the requisite bitchy blonde in the itty-bitty t-shirt. In between the requisite collegiate banter about sex, sex and more sex, horny boys Ky, Jonah–who used to be Gen's main squeeze–and Gavin, Jonah's replacement, circle around one another like wolves, albeit wolves who really want to get a passing grade in this class.

Probably needless to say, the youngsters quickly discover that you discount old wives' tales and regional legends at your peril. There's no electricity at the Lafitte Plantation, and once it starts getting dark and cold the place is seriously creepy, a symphony of creaks and squeaks and nerve-jangling booms that make all the young folk wish they'd listened to the skittish locals and committed to a project whose biggest downside was allergic reactions from long-term exposure to moldy old books.

Unfortunately for The Final Project, in 2016 the vogue for found-footage features has already largely played itself out. But that said, it's not a bad movie. While the structure is thoroughly familiar, the film features strong performances across the board and African-American director/co-writer Taylor Ri'chard, whose script was inspired by real stories about Vacherie’s Chretien Pointe Plantation, evokes a convincing sense of place and history.

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