• Last Broadcast, The

    Released by: Heretic Films
    Released on: 9/26/2006
    Director: Stefan Avalos, Lance Wieler
    Cast: David Beard, Jim Seward, Stefan Avalos, Lance Wieler, Rein Clabbers
    Year: 1998
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Before The Blair Witch project became the blockbuster that we all know it as, a quiet little independent film broke similar ground, the catch being that they did it before those annoying filmmakers went off into the woods near coffin rock. Stefan Avalos and Lance Wieler’s The Last Broadcast was the ‘original’ low budget mockumentary horror film and while it isn’t a perfect film, considering it was made in Adobe Premiere for about $900, it’s pretty damn impressive.

    The ‘documentary’ that we watch unfold was directed by David Leigh (David Beard), whose intention was to unveil the truth behind a brutal triple murder that took place out in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. It seems that two public access cable show hosts, Steven Akfast (Stefan Avalos) and Locus Wheeler (Lance Wieler) went off into the woods with their sound man, Rein Clackin (Rein Clabbers) and their psychic friend, Jim Suerd (Jim Seward) for a live broadcast that would show up on both the web and on television. Their intent was to boost ratings for their show, Fact Or Fiction?, by going deep into the woods in hopes of capturing some footage or finding out the truth behind the Jersey Devil.

    That night, something happened. The only one who made it out alive was Jim Suerd and he automatically became the number one suspect in the case. The fact that they found a piece of clothing in his house that had blood from all three victims on it didn’t help his case any, and neither did the videotapes from that night that showed Jim as a strange, and sometimes very aggressive type. Through interviews with those who knew both the victims and the accused, Leigh unravels the mystery but, through the discovery of one key clue that shows up on tape, what he finds isn’t at all what you would expect.

    While not all of the acting is dead on and there are a few moments, particularly towards the end, where the story could have used a few tweaks, The Last Broadcast is a pretty impressive first time effort from Stefan Avalos and Lance Wieler who shot and edited the whole things themselves on a personal computer. In much the same way that The Collingsworth Story made the most out of the limited resources that were available to the filmmakers, here we see some very resourceful use of eerie locations and sets that add a lot of atmosphere to the project. The premise behind the story works well and it is setup quite effectively so that the filmmaker’s are able to slowly build tension – this one doesn’t move a hundred miles a minute but stick with it, once you’re half way through it you’ll be sufficiently pulled into it and there are some seriously eerie moments in this movie. Aside from a few holes in the story – such as how the blood got on Suerd’s shirt and how he was able to stay on an IRC feed allnight while out in the woods (I suppose he could have had some sort of cellphone hook up but in 1999 when this was made that would seem unlikely) – but if you look at the bigger picture this movie is quite an accomplishment.

    The twist ending comes at you out of left field and a better explanation for this ending would have gone a long way towards making this a more intense experience but as it stands, The Last Broadcast is a smart and inventive horror film that is, unfortunately, still stuck under the shadow of the better known and less original Blair Witch Project.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The 1.33.1 fullframe transfer that The Last Broadcast receives on this disc is a bit of a mixed bag, but thankfully the bad outweighs the good and most of the visual flaws are here on purpose to add some authenticity to the mockumentary approach. Black levels are strong throughout, even too strong as they tend to muddy up the fine detail in a couple of darker spots. Aliasing is present but never overbearing while edge enhancement and mpeg compression artifacts are not once problematic. There’s a bit of softness here and there but nothing to worry about as it’s an occasional issue and not a constant one. Overall the image is pretty clean and pretty sharp but again, there are definitely a few scenes in here that look rough around the edges, particularly the ones that are supposed to be ‘found footage’ or older archival clips.

    The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track does a pretty nice job with the score and the dialogue though there are one or two scenes in the movie where the levels get a bit funky and the performers get buried just a bit in the rest of the mix. Thankfully this happens rarely and it’s never so severe as to make the dialogue unintelligible. Aside from that, no complaints here. For the most part things sound good, there are no problems with hiss or distortion, and the music sounds nice and punchy. English and Spanish subtitles are included for the feature only.

    The main extras are the two audio commentary tracks with co-creators Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler respectively but there are also behind the scenes documentaries here that cover Production, Post-Production and Distribution as well as some newly recorded Exclusive Interviews with the cast and crew members and a bit called "Fact or Fiction!" which is a collection of clips from the infamous public access cable show.

    Rounding out the extra features are trailers for the feature as well as Head Trauma and The Ghosts Of Edendale, a gallery of gore showcasing the Pine Barrens murder set pieces, a still gallery of The Last Broadcast promotional artwork, two video clips of the Jim Seward character performing two folks songs, animated menus and chapter stops for the feature only.

    Inside the keepcase is a twelve page insert booklet including a full color comic entitled Jersey Devil by Stephen R. Bissette (of Tyrant and Swamp Thing fame). Also in here is a Jersey Devil sightings map, biographies of the filmmakers and some liner notes.

    The Final Word:

    While The Last Broadcast has a few flaws and will probably forever have to live in the shadow of The Blair Witch Project despite the fact that it predates it, Heretic have given this odd little horror film an excellent release. The movie’s not perfect but it’s an excellent example of what you can do with a few dollars, a camcorder, some luck and a whole lot of ambition.