Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Last Broadcast - The Devil Endures

The Last Broadcast is the film that many believe was a key element in the development of the much more popularized and famed Blair Witch Project. This film made by Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler using inexpensive PC-based hardware and software went on through its distribution effort to gross $4,000,000. With only a $900 budget, it is actually one of the most overlooked, influential and profitable independent films ever made.


The film deals with a documentary filmmaker named David Leigh, and his investigation of the Fact or Fiction murders, where pair of cable access hosts are murdered in mysterious circumstances. Leigh sets out to find the truth behind these killings while making his documentary.

One night a stranger passes on the idea of searching for The Jersey Devil in the Pine Barrens (the film only mentions the Jersey Devil, however, and gives absolutely no background details of the legend). Leaping on this idea, Avkast and Wheeler recruit Rein Clackin, a soundman who can allegedly record the paranormal, and Jim Suerd, a psychic whom, Leigh discovers, is emotionally disturbed. The plan is for the four to enter the Pine Barrens with Suerd leading them to the location of The Jersey Devil. During the hunt, they would broadcast a live show simultaneously via television, internet and amateur radio.

The four enter the Barrens but only Suerd emerges alive, the others are killed. Avkast's body is never found, though it is made clear in the following trial that he could not have survived the massive blood loss found at the crime scene. Leigh then runs through the trial, Suerd as the only survivor is also the only suspect. To aid the prosecution case they employ a video engineer (nicknamed "The Killer Cutter") to compile a portrait of the group's trip using the surviving film footage found at the crime scene. Suerd is found guilty and is imprisoned, though there is doubt over whether he did it as his clothes were not drenched in blood and there is evidence he was engaged in an IRC room during the times of the murders.

Before anything can be proven, Suerd commits suicide in prison and the case is considered closed by the authorities. However, Leigh has a box sent to him containing a damaged videotape reel, which Leigh assumes is tape from the Fact or Fiction team thought not to exist. A data retrieval expert named Shelly Monarch is called in to reconstruct the images on the tape as much as possible. She finds that not only have Wheeler and Clacklin's deaths been caught on tape, but that Suerd could not have committed the murders. What is also caught is a blurred image of the real killer. As Leigh videotapes her, Monarch uses an image editor to re-construct the image of the killer's face; when she finishes, the viewer sees that Leigh himself was the actual murderer.

With this revelation, the film abruptly shifts from the perspective of Leigh's camera to a third person perspective, lingering on Monarch's tormented face as Leigh suffocates her to death with a piece of plastic in a real-time sequence. Afterwards, Leigh loads Monarch's corpse into his car and drives it out to the woods, where he dumps it in a clearing and then begins awkwardly videotaping himself narrating the next segment of his documentary.

The Legend of the Jersey Devil

The Jersey Devil, sometimes called the Leeds Devil, is a legendary said to inhabit the Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey. It is said that Mother Leeds had 12 children and, after giving birth to her 12th child, stated that if she had another, it would be the Devil. In 1735, Mother Leeds was in labor on a stormy night. Gathered around her were her friends. Mother Leeds was supposedly a witch and the child's father was the Devil himself. The child was born normal, but changed into to a creature with hooves, a horse's head, bat wings and a forked tail. It growled and screamed, then killed the midwife before flying up the chimney. It circled the villages and headed toward the pines, cursed to haunt the area for all eternity.

To sum it up, The Last Broadcast is a very intricate movie with a solid script that creates a great and believable mystery. While I did not find the ending as shocking as many, I did feel satisfied. In time, I definitely feel that the movie will get its just due and capture a great cult following.

As a writer and Editorial Director of Haunted Times Magazine, I often have the opportunity to explore strange areas. One area that I have visited is the Pine Barrens in search of the famed monster. While I have never encountered it, I have made it my goal to clean up the areas that I visit to help the animals that do live here survive. The land is covered with empty bottles, some old, some new. After gathering a couple bags over the past few times I went, I had to find something to do with them. I created one of a kind Jersey Devil bottles, with a clay, hand-painted head and an original poem placed on the side. If anyone is interested in one of these strange collectables, drop me a line. More details can be found on my writing website.


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