The release of The Blair Witch Project was the best thing that ever happened to The Last Broadcast – and the worst. Released about one year before Blair Witch, the similarly themed Last Broadcast got the attention it likely never would have received otherwise. On the other hand, the movie has never really escaped the shadow of Blair Witch.
The Last Broadcast, like Blair Witch, is a fake documentary featuring allegedly "lost" footage from an ill-fated expedition to uncover the truth about a legendary monster. The film's structure is very different, however – it is hosted and narrated by another documentary filmmaker investigating a grisly triple murder in the pine barrens of New Jersey.
The victims, filming an episode of a public-access cable show called Fact or Fiction, were trying to track down the mythical Jersey Devil, and a mentally disturbed crew member was convicted of their murder. The host and narrator, however, uncovers crucial evidence which shows that an innocent man may have been convicted – and is then given video footage which may reveal who (or what) actually did it.
The Last Broadcast had a low budget even compared to The Blair Witch Project — some websites say it was made for less than a thousand dollars — and while the low production values are occasionally apparent, the movie is remarkably well-made. (The directors, Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler, wisely portray the "lost" footage as having been heavily damaged – which allows them to get around some of their budget limitations.) The DVD is absolutely packed with special features, including two directors' commentary tracks, several "making-of" documentaries, and even a small comic book about the Jersey Devil legend.
The movie isn't as frightening or as polished as Blair Witch, but it holds its own right up to a genuinely surprising twist ending. That ending has been the most heavily criticized part of The Last Broadcast, and even I wonder how it could have been filmed by the narrator-host – but I honestly never saw it coming.
The movie is notable for one other reason: it was the first feature film distributed to theaters by satellite and shown using digital projectors. Getting a movie made is hard enough; converting it to celluloid, producing prints and shipping them to cinemas is agonizingly difficult and expensive, and thousands of much more expensive films languish in vaults for precisely this reason.
The Last Broadcast is best known for its similarity to another movie, but it may eventually become better known for revolutionizing the film distribution process.