Sep 19, 2014

Review: The Last Broadcast (1998)

I have to admit, I really like found footage films. I guess it's a bit of a guilty pleasure. If done correctly, they can feel totally genuine and just as scary as traditionally filmed horror movies. They seem to be a pretty divisive subgenre of horror but that's just how it is. They've probably passed the played out stage like slashers did during the 80's but that's what makes finding some obscure, older found footage film so enticing to me.

The Last Broadcast came out a year before The Blair Witch Project and resembles it in certain ways. It's the work of two men who co-directed and co-wrote the movie. Also, it's about a group of men who go into the woods to find the Jersey Devil in the Pine Barrrens and film the whole thing on camera. It's done a little differently though, more in the form of a documentary with narration courtesy of David Beard. Interestingly enough, it's believed to be the first movie shot entirely with regular consumer video equipment.


Genre: horror, mystery
Directed by: Stefan Avalos, Lance Weiler
Produced by: Stefan Avalos, Lance Weiler
Written by: Stefan Avalos, Lance Weiler
Music by: Stefan Avalos, A.D. Roso
Running time: 86 minutes
Production company: FFM Productions
Distributed by: Herald Film Company, Metrodome Distribution, Wavelength Releasing, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $900
Box office: $12,097 (North America)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: David Beard, Jim Seward, Stefan Avalos, Lance Weiler, Rein Clabbers, Michele Pulaski, Tom Brunt, Mark Rublee, A.D. Roso, Dale Worstall, Vann K. Weller, Sam Wells, Jay MacDonald, Faith Weiler, Marianne Connor, Robert Weiler, Jennifer Nasal, Holly Madison



David Leigh (David Beard) narrates this documentary outlining the mysterious occurrences surrounding a trip into the New Jersey Pine Barrens to attempt the find the Jersey Devil which is some kind of local legend. Steven "Johnny" Avkast (Stefan Avalos) and Locus Wheeler (Lance Weiler) are the hosts of a paranormal variety show that is failing. To drum up some interest, they decide to do a live broadcast/live radio broadcast/live webcast of their trek into the Pine Barrens, but something goes wrong. Only one of their crew members ever comes back.


The Last Broadcast looks like it's extremely low budget and it is. Although the $900 is only an estimate for the budget, that's peanuts. Not even, it's a peanut. But that's exactly how TLB should look. The show that Avkast and Wheeler host looks like an awful piece of crap and that's what drives their small and dying popularity anyway. What the low budgetness of this whole production does is add to the creepiness factor and that's what The Last Broadcast excels at. It's technical shortcomings are what make it creepy.

This is not a jump out of your seat kind of scary movie. It is however quite eerie a lot of the time. The age of The Last Broadcast shows because of the use of old technology like dial-up internet, old video equipment and of course the lack of cell phones. IRC chat is used pretty prominently too and all this old stuff just feels creepy to me. Video and sound cuts are commonplace and you're always afraid of what you might see or might hear. It's like there's something about all this old tech that hides some kind of unseen malice.

The film is made to be like some sort of documentary with narration as I said. Whether or not this is the most effective way to drive the story forward, David Beard gives a sometimes cheesy, sometimes creepy delivery of his lines. He drives the story forward and you'll see for yourself that he's necessary for the story that Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler want to tell. Without spoiling the ending, I'll just say that it's a complete disappointment almost ruins the movie completely. (Spoilers) It's also a huge mystery to me why Avalos and Weiler throw out the found footage film style for these remaining five minutes or so when the climax makes its appearance. Pretty much everything that makes The Last Broadcast creepy is thrown out the window. (End Spoilers)

The ending is what derails The Last Broadcast and it's a shame. It's a pretty weird piece of found footage that oozes creepiness through its old-tech pores. It's good fun to watch some of the second rate acting, especially from Jim Seward but some of that bad acting makes sense because the characters are part of a dumb TV show anyway. You'll sleep fine after seeing The Last Broadcast but it's all the same an interesting experiment if you're willing to try and ignore the ending.



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