Surfacing just before The Blair Witch Project made the found footage genre a thing, The Last Broadcast is something of a footnote in film history. The commercial success of Blair Witch overshadowed Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler’s pseudo-documentary, but horror fans will still have a fond place for this prototype in their hearts. While a little raw in places, it’s an interesting example of the form, and this comprehensive blu-ray re-release has bountiful extras including a new 30 minute interview with the directors.
The concept; the hosts of a public-access tv show called Fact or Fiction have gone missing, with one body recovered. Film-maker David Leigh (David Beard) decides to investigate, and finds video-footage that shows how the duo followed an anonymous tip off to investigate a mythical creature called the Jersey Devil, which inhabits the New Jersey Pinelands. Leigh goes in pursuit, and tracks down the members of the film-crew that recorded the footage of the Fact and Fiction crew’s demise, only to find some unseen material…
For a home-made movie made on consumer-level equipment, The Last Broadcast is more than watchable; there’s a number of Blair Witch/Paranormal Activity rip-offs which are anything but. Leigh’s quest uncovers enough plot twists and satirical touches to skirt over the potholes in the script, and there’s a firmer punch-line than might be expected. While The Last Broadcast exemplifies the found-footage ethos, it does do in an external way, with different cuts of material suggesting different culprits for the murders, and Leigh himself coming under suspicion. That’s a more intricate and complex idea that the largely single-cam Blair Witch, and that complexity gives The Last Broadcast a unique tone of its own.
You generally don’t look to found footage for great acting or production values, and you won’t find much of either here; the impact of these early entries in the cycle largely came from some of the audience believing that they were seeing a recording of real events, so the gnarly quality is leaned-into. The Last Broadcast drops the ball in the final revelations, which abandon the found-footage discipline, but it’s admirable that they kept the illusion going for so long. Horror went off in more commercial directions after this, but by making a virtue of a home-made aethetic, The Last Broadcast is worth reviving as one of the most effective examples of the found footage genre.
This new 101 Films Black Label version is the first blu-ray release for the film, and includes a fresh chat to the makers, newly commissioned slipcase artwork (above) rfom legendary comics artist Stephen R. Bissette, and a booklet with expert writing on the found footage genre from the minds behind a rigorous feature documentary The Found Footage Phenomenon (2021) which I’ll review elsewhere on this website over the next few days.
Thanks to 101 Films for access. Available on Blu–ray in the UK from 6th December 2021. Links below.