Before there was the Blair Witch, there was The Last Broadcast
The Last Broadcast (1998)
Found footage is hit or miss because there’s a fine line between “holy crap these amateurs are in over their heads “ and “wow this crappy looking footage sure looks like it was authentically shot by amateurs”. For one, I quite enjoy the subgenre and it’s had quite long life despite having its starts and fits in popularity over the decades.
Of course one of the best arguments for found footage is that when done at its best it’s the stuff of nightmares. The use of the media in a non-traditional faux-authentic way creates cinematically that feeling of being around a campfire being a told a supposedly true local legend. That hint of plausibility poking past the curtain of logic that can send chills when done just right; that’s the feeling every great found footage horror movie hopes to encapsulate.
The Last Broadcast to me is one of the best found footage movies out there because of how creepy much of its “matter of factly” told story comes across.
Synopses copied from Wiki :
The film deals with a documentary film-maker named David Leigh, and his investigation of the Fact or Fiction murders. In this case, a pair of cable TV hosts of public-access television were murdered in mysterious circumstances. The body of one was never found. Leigh seeks to discover the truth behind these killings while making his documentary.
Fact or Fiction is a show dealing with unsolved mysteries and the paranormal. Its two hosts are Steven “Johnny” Avkast and Locus Wheeler. (Although it was initially a success, Leigh’s later investigations find that the show is failing and is threatened with imminent cancellation.) At this point Avkast comes up with the idea of a live Internet Relay Chat section of the show.
A caller suggests the team search for the Jersey Devil, a mythic figure associated with the Pine Barrens (end synopses).
Keeping it “Real”
The way the aesthetics play out feel exactly like those local station knockoffs of “unsolved mysteries” and just captures a certain feel in time of place with technology (irc chats with satellite connections for laptops show both just how far and how limited technology was for people going into the woods in the mid 90s).
This is a film like all good horror stories, that finds many ways to deliver scares. I don’t want to spoil anything but a central premise of the movie (similar to its then soon-to-be-released Blair Witch) is how much of what’s happening is due to a supernatural presence and how much of it is the fault of humans. With more thought and care for plot and characters than a thousand Blair Witch imitators lurking in the future, The Last Broadcast still stands out for how well it handles its premise and how it keeps the viewer guessing up until the very end on what is fact, and what is fiction.