Features and Columns · Movies

The Prescient Faux-Documentary Horror of ‘The Last Broadcast’

Tulpas, truthiness, and the terrifying early days of web forms … ‘The Last Broadcast’ was truly ahead of its time.
The Last Broadcast
By  · Published on December 30th, 2022

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores the groundbreaking and underseen found footage horror film The Last Broadcast.

Here’s a fun question for all of you sickos out there who love genre semantics: what is the difference between found footage horror and a horror mockumentary?

For my money, I think the key is that most horror mockumentaries use found footage, but not all found-footage horror movies are mockumentaries. Maybe some examples will help. 2008’s Cloverfield is a found footage kaiju film where the footage was “found” by the US Department of Defense. Meanwhile, films like Noroi: The Curse actively pretend to be unfinished documentaries, salvaged under mysterious circumstances. Perhaps it’s fair to say that “documentary” is one of the more popular ways that “footage” gets “found.”

1999’s The Blair Witch Project is definitely the most famous found footage mockumentary. But it absolutely wasn’t the first.

Which brings us to the topic of today’s video essay: The Last Broadcast, which was released a whole year before its much more successful successor. As an archived contemporary Videomaker article notes, The Last Broadcast was the first film created on entirely consumer-level digital equipment. This endows the film with an eerie realism that no amount of studio money can replicate. (For what it’s worth, The Last Broadcast was made for something in the area of $900.00 USD).

Without giving the ending away here, the film follows David (David Beard), a documentary filmmaker investigating a series of unsolved murders revolving around a paranormal public-access TV show. While the film is pointedly dated (the scenes featuring very, very early internet forums must be seen to be believed), the film has retained a chilling relevancy with respect to documentary agendas, bias, and perception.

Be wary that the following contains spoilers.

Watch “THE LAST BROADCAST: The Groundbreaking Found Footage Film Everyone Forgot”

Who made this?

This video, The Last Broadcast, is by Ryan Hollinger, a Northern Irish video essayist who specializes in horror films. Hollinger’s analysis usually takes the shape of a personal retrospective. Indulging in a healthy dose of nostalgia, Hollinger’s videos are contagiously endearing, entertaining, and informative. You can also check out Hollinger’s podcast, The Carryout, on SoundCloud here. And you can subscribe to Hollinger’s YouTube account here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).