Sunday, November 29

The Last Broadcast...Or How to Fuck Up a Cup of "Found Footage" Coffee

major spoilers ahoy beginning at the fourth paragraph!

This ultra-low budget SOV feature frames itself like an A&E television documentary concerning the mysteries surrounding the murder of a group of public access hosts while taping an episode in Jersey's Pine Barrens in search of the Jersey Devil. A supposed psychic, Jim Suerd (Jim Seward), whom the hosts enlisted to guide them in the area was charged with their slayings and ends up mysteriously killed in prison. This mock after-the-fact case file attempts to clear up just what really happened out among the pines after the last tape ended and help shed light upon Jim's guilt or perhaps innocence.

Few films manage to actually piss me off. The Last Broadcast got under my skin in the wrong fashion to such a degree I couldn't sleep well last night. It's the kind of film that will have you seething with extreme annoyance as the credits begin. Why? You guessed it, a twist ending sours the entire feature. Now, I'm not one of these guys who gets pissy over climaxes that challenge a story's narrative to its core. The latter half revelations in films like Alexandre Aja's High Tension and Umberto Lenzi's Nightmare City don't do much harm due to the respective quality and dumb fun that came before you exclaiming "what the hell?!?" during the final frames. Though in this particular instance, Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler's critic-dubbed precursor to Blair Witch only throws the baby out with bloody afterbirth in its final minutes.

Despite striking this nerve, considering what it is and its amazingly meager $900 budget, The Last Broadcast is quite an achievement. The film looks and feels ten years older than its production year but its documentary-style housing defeats viewer boredom even if details get repetitive. Expect to hear the name "Jim Suerd" three hundred times in eighty-six minutes. The actors do a great job casting their inexperience upon the on-camera inexperience of their characters and the acting is never too stilted. One can't help but praise what cast and crew managed to accomplish--only if it wasn't for the goddamn ending.

Here's your major spoilers. The man behind the documentary hires a video restorer to recover a heavily damaged tape that mysteriously lands at his doorstep of the final minutes of the group's fate. Right when the frame with the killer's true identity is revealed, the documentary jarringly "ends" and we witness the filmmaker suffocate and the wrap the restorer in plastic sheets as he is the killer revealed from the video haze. The last few minutes are of the man still "taping" his documentary since his mind finally shit the bed in the Pine Barrens with the ziplocked body. The execution of this conclusion occurs so quickly and abruptly any impact collapses to a feeling of being cheated by a gigantic cop out that negates everything that came before (much like The Zombie Diaries).

Instead of the killings being the work of a horrifying cryptozoological winged horse, it's yet another intelligent psychopath and at that exact moment The Last Broadcast's failings immediately bolster what The Blair Witch Project did so right. If one is still interested, DVDs of this demand substantial coin, but I'd advise tracking this down on cheap VHS (like I) first before experiencing a sinking stomach over paying a crazy sum for this title.


Tower Farm said...

Wonderful review!! So pissed you couldn't sleep!!!!

I have been curious about this one for a long time. Guess I will skip it.


Pax Romano said...

Actually I enjoyed this film.

My problem? Living about five miles outside of the New Jersey Pine Barrens - I am pretty sure that they did not film this anywhere near the actual pines.

Matt-suzaka said...

I hate the ending to this film, but feel that the rest is so strong that I can just let it go. The Last Broadcast really creeped me out in its execution, and the narrator has a fucking scary voice. The end is a major slap in the face though.

The Vicar of VHS said...

I thought they did a good job selling the premise most of the way through, and was really into the whole disappearance/mystery thing with the public access guys. It felt like a real low-budget public access documentary in a lot of ways, which helped sell me on its basic premise.

But you're absolutely right about the ending--you've had this pseudo-documentary thing all the way through, which as I say was working pretty well for me, and then suddenly in the last few minutes they drop it, go to omniscient 3rd person, and completely undermine all the good that came before. I would have been less pissed if it had just remained "unsolved," of if there was an inconclusive SOMETHING on the video for a final freeze frame--anything but the total senseless stupidity they arrived at. :P

Unknown said...

I enjoyed your post on The Last Broadcast although I disagree with the line "...documentary style housing defeats viewer boredom..." - I actually thought it was really dull and boring. Being a lifelong Jersey guy, I expected so much more. I actually WANTED to see a wing, or a steamy breath, or whatever...throw us a frickin' bone here! lol

Stac said...

My personal problem with this movie was how bad the "corpse" effects were. I get that this was probably less obvious when it was originally made, but the (I'm guessing) Adobe filters are pretty obvious. As a result it looked dated, really fast. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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