Night #3: The Last Broadcast (1999)

Lastbroadcast

Directed By: Lance Weiler, Stefan Avalos

At 10 PM, in what will be the last broadcast, Fact or Fiction goes live.”

In 1995, two hosts of the documentary ‘Fact or Fiction?’ investigate the Jersey Devil and go missing, later found dead. Later, the tapes of their show are unearthed and edited into a movie about what happened to them out in the woods.

So, if you’re thinking this all sounds very The Blair Witch Project then you’d be right, and though superficially the movies have something in common and some more fervent fans have been insisted there’s a ripoff happening somewhere, that’s where the similarities end. 

The Last Broadcast is instead framed like our current true crime craze, feeling more in line with a low-rent The Jinx or Making A Murderer, proving that it likely came almost 20 years too soon. In that regard the movie certainly has its charms, using archival footage and contemporary interviews to piece together the many twists and turns in the fate of our two esteemed hosts. All of this though doesn’t add up to an effective feature.

One of the skills of The Blair Witch Project is the way that it ratchets up the tension throughout. It’s a great trick of that movie that too many easily dismiss as just people walking around the woods. That’s not entirely the case with The Last Broadcast, which is paced…well like an amateur attempt at making a true crime documentary. Indeed, it’s not until about 50 minutes in that we learn anything of the titular last broadcast itself. It’s a shame as well because from that point on the movie is pretty good and effectively creepy (though it depends on your tolerance for found footage).

What is novel is that it exists purely as a time-capsule of 1995. I don’t think there’s ever been another movie where such an important role was played by IRC chatrooms and the early digital filmmaking is charmingly low rent. It’s so low-rent that some scenes at the end are unable to fill the frame and instead look like those mid-90s video games that star Tim Curry, all pixilated and blurry and looking as though someone filmed through a letterbox.

Given that the cast are non-actors they deliver fairly convincing performances (Another reason people cited this as being the better movie, none of that pesky crying and shouting) though they’re not called on to do anything more than A) Pretend to be amateur TV hosts and B) Look shifty. What doesn’t work though, in the three times I’ve seen this movie now – I was one of those people that spoke with some authority that this was the superior move. I was wrong – the twist ending has never worked for me. It’s cheap and makes very little sense. Twist endings are all well and good and can be effective but when your first, or third, reaction is to say that it doesn’t make sense then perhaps it doesn’t make sense. Supposedly the ending was one of the first things they came up with and the idea was certainly better than the execution (Boy is that execution bad).

Funnily enough, the movie does remind me of The Blair Witch Project, sort of. Instead, it bears more relation to The Curse Of The Blair Witch, one of the tangental documentaries released in advance of that movie hitting cinemas, although on the whole that did more to unnerve me than this one did.

I recommend checking this out as a curiosity if you have 90 minutes to kill, particularly as it’s a found-footage movie that doesn’t owe a huge debt to that other, better and more popular movie.

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