The Last Broadcast (1998) – Stefan Avalos, and Lance Weiler

The year before The Blair Witch Project came along and revitalized and re-created the found footage genre, The Last Broadcast told a similar tale of murder, mystery, and possibly the supernatural.

And while I have some serious issues with the format change at the film’s climax, not to mention some of the less-than-stellar performances, I found The Last Broadcast an intriguing premise and worth exploring.

It’s a must for any found footage fan because it preceded the wave of found footage films that the Blair Witch, and later Paranormal Activity spawned.

A pair of less-than-experienced talk show hosts of a cable access program called Fact or Fiction is struggling to stay afloat, and even incorporating live calls, and the blossoming world of IRC (Internet Relay Chat).

When someone (something?) online suggests they investigate the Pine Barrens and the mystery of the Jersey Devil the guys, Locus (Lance Weiler) and Steven (Stefan Avalos) hit on the idea of doing a live webcast from the middle of the Pine Barrens as they search for the Jersey Devil.

That’s the framework for the story that David Leigh (David Beard) uses as the basis for his own documentary covering the pair’s last broadcast, when four people went into the woods and only one came out, purported psychic (psycho?) Jim Suerd (Jim Seward).

Suerd was promptly arrested and tried with what could be argued as circumstantial evidence to sentence him. Leigh is convinced there’s more than simple murder at work here and believes that Suerd is innocent.

He pieces together the events before and leading up to the last broadcast, from Locus and Steven’s humble beginnings to the strains on their relationship, to Suerd’s personal history, his fascination with magic, and his increasing addiction to the internet.

And while by the end of the film there’s no question of who committed the killings it does raise some questions about why Leigh wanted to make his film in the first place.

Made incredibly cheaply, which gives it an air of authenticity, the film isn’t as tightly made and narrative-driven as it could be, but, for the most part, it works. It creates a fascinating mystery which at first glance is as simple as it appears, but when layers get peeled back, there are some deeper things going on that we don’t get answers to.

That’s cool, I guess, But it’s also where the film flounders. The strange shift in camera work, the not quite hints of something bigger and spookier going on – I mean, if this was a documentary made in the 90s about a series of grisly murders, you know the team behind it would have leaned into the more lurid and spooky details just to grab viewers and numbers.

The Last Broadcast was interesting, I prefer the not quite seen scares and terrors of The Blair Witch Project.

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