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Review:  Blatant rip-off ‘The Final Project’ shows why found footage has lost its way

Teal Haddock as Anna Davenport in "The Final Project ."
(Cavu Pictures)

Horror buffs may feel a pang of nostalgia watching “The Final Project,” a found-footage exercise that eschews recent efforts to jazz up the genre and instead gets back to basics — by shamelessly ripping off “The Blair Witch Project.”

This “project” is a university film class assignment. A group of young men and women travel to Vacherie, La., to make a documentary about a haunted plantation. As tends to happen, the trip goes horribly awry and people get killed, leaving some luckless editor to piece together a story from the shaky, poorly framed, mostly pointless video clips the victims left behind.

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Even by the shaggy standards of found footage, “The Final Project” is amateurish. First-time writer-director Taylor Ri’chard relies heavily on his cast’s improv skills; and while the actors are refreshingly culturally diverse, their tendency to default to sexual boasting, raunchy jokes and demeaning put-downs is more depressing than entertaining.

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Most of the movie’s scares are held back for the final 20 minutes: a noisy, confusing assault on the senses, consisting of screaming, loud bangs and underlighted shots of people running.

If there’s anything encouraging about “The Final Project,” it’s the title. Maybe this will be the film that closes the book on a style that long ago exhausted its potential.

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‘The Final Project’

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No rating

Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills


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