Monday, April 2, 2007

The Last Broadcast (1998)

In this faux documentary within a faux documentary, local cable television hosts Locus Wheeler (Lance Weiler) and Steven Avkast (Stefan Avalos) of "Fact or Fiction" decide to do a special live broadcast from the desolate Pine Barrens and explore the legend of the Jersey Devil. They enlist the help of soundman Rein Clackin (Rein Clabbers) and self-professed psychic Jim Suerd (Jim Seward). After preparations are made, the four head deep into the snowy Pine Barrens to set up camp in an isolated location and film the show, but the next day only Jim emerges from the woods. The rest of the men have disappeared. Days later, the bodies of Wheeler and Clackin are found miles from the campsite. The only thing that remains of Avkast is his hat and a large amount of blood; his body was never found. Jim is the only survivor and ends up being the police's only suspect. All the evidence seems to point to him and he is quickly arrested, charged, tried and found guilty on two counts of first degree murder. He is sentenced to two life terms, but shortly after he is incarcerated he is found dead of unknown causes. Filmmaker David Leigh (David Beard) is filming a documentary on what really happened to the four men in the Pine Barrens and is doubtful that Jim was the killer.  

The Last Broadcast is presented as a documentary, with Leigh taking us through video tape shot by the "Fact or Fiction" crew at the Pine Barrens, interviewing key people in Jim's life as well as those involved in the trial and trying to show that Jim was not the killer. David's seems to all be coming together when he receives an unmarked package at his door that includes missing film from the night of the broadcast. Michelle Monarch (Michelle Pulaski), a data retrieval specialist, begins piecing together the film that may contain the face of the killer...

The Last Broadcast is so well done that anyone not knowing better might think they are watching an honest to goodness documentary. Directors and writers Lance Weiler and Stefan Avalos have crafted a creepy and tense film that, if crudely looked at, appears to resemble The Blair Witch Project. An interesting fact to note is that Blair Witch came out a full year after this low-budget (supposedly shot for only $900) film was released. The Last Broadcast is also the first movie to be completely shot, edited and screened digitally. No film was used in the making of the movie. Though it bears a resemblance to Blair Witch (or, more correctly, Blair Witch bears a resemblance to it), it has a very different tone to it. First of all, it is shown from a completely different perspective as cinematic journalist Leigh tries to get to the bottom of the mystery. The "Fact or Fiction" footage is shown in context of Leigh's own documentary, and isn't shown without Leigh framing it with his remarks. We view the "Fact or Fiction" murder story through the lens of this other documentary, which gives it a very real and completely different tone than the Blair Witch.

Watching the film, you even forget it has actual actors. The actors all do a very convincing job and you really do believe they are just people being interviewed. David Beard gives a very dry, detached performance as documentary filmmaker David Leigh and the rest of the cast does an extraordinary job playing ordinary people. It feels and looks just like a real documentary film.

The film builds up the tension and uneasiness as it delves further and further into the story, building its intensity up to where the killer's identity is revealed on the film that Michelle is carefully reconstructing. The last few scenes are shocking and definitely threw me for a loop.

Lance Weiler is also the director of Head Trauma (review), one of my top ten horror flick picks for 2006, and with The Last Broadcast (released in 1998) he has convinced me that he is definitely an up-and-coming director to watch.

Buy The Last Broadcast!

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