Released in 1998 by independent film makers Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler, The Last Broadcast is a rather unusual little movie. Its documentary style is very realistic, the tone of the movie is consistently creepy, and unlike other movies of this sort you do find out what really happened. It is also one of the first films to be almost entirely cut on a home desktop PC and when the time came for its theatrical release it was sent digitally via satellite to cinemas using no celluloid at all. Many say it was the inspiration for the more widely known Blair Witch Project and fans will say it is far superior. The movie cost a mere $900 to produce and is filmed solely on digital cameras.
Steven Avkast (Stefan Avalos) and Locus Wheeler (Lance Weiler) are hosts of the once successful, but now less popular, Internet paranormal show, Fact or Fiction. In an attempt to revive the show's flagging popularity, they decide do a special live broadcast from a location to be decided by the fans. A message comes through to the studio by IRC (Internet Relay Chat) suggesting they investigate the Jersey Devil legend. So off they head to a remote location in the New Jersey Pine Barrens to broadcast the show. They also recruit two fans to take with them; Rein Clackin (Rein Clabbers), a sound man who claims to be able to pick up otherworldly sounds with his equipment, and Jim Suerd (Jim Seward), an alleged psychic.
Jim Suerd's job is to guide the team to the best location to set up the broadcast in terms of locating the Jersey Devil. He leads them deep into the Pine Barrens, several miles from the nearest access road.
The following day Jim Suerd staggers out of the woods covered inblood and alone and calls 911. Avkast, Wheeler, and Clackin are reported missing, but many believe it to be a hoax in true Fact or Fiction style. However, the mutilated bodies of Rein Clackin and Locus Wheeler are soon found. All that is found of Steven Avkast is a large amount of blood, his flashlight and his hat. He is also presumed dead.
Jim Suerd, as the only survivor, is instantly arrested and very quickly tried. He is found guilty of two counts of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He commits suicide in his cell.
For the viewer however, the story begins a year after the Jersey Devil murders. Film maker David Leigh (David Beard) has decided to take a closer look at the case as he believes, as some others do, that Jim Suerd was innocent and the trial bungled. What follows is his investigation into the case, showing us snippets of Wheeler and Avkast's last broadcast from the Pine Barrens as necessary.
We get to see into the lives and backgrounds of Suerd and the victims, as well as being shown the court case and evidence the prosecution overlooked. Some time into his investigation we see Leigh receive a package from an anonymous sender. It contains tape from the film reels taken by Wheeler, Clackin and Avkast in the Pine Barrens. The tape is badly damaged but, as is it is slowly restored by data retrieval expert Shelly Monarch (Michelle Pulaski) and watched by Leigh we see new evidence come to light. As the likelihood of Jim Suerd's guilt decreases in front of us with the new evidence and Leigh's theories, we are faced with the question of who did do it? Steven Avkast is ruled out due to the amount of his blood found. As the film progresses, Shelly announces she thinks she has the killer's face on tape and we do indeed find out who committed the murders.The movie also stars
- Tom Brunt - Thomas "Tom" Branski, "Fact or Fiction" Video engineer
- Mark Rublee - Clair Deforest, Video Editor for the Prosecution
- A.D Roso - Detective Anthony Rosi, Lead Investigator
- Dale Worstall - Dr. Dale Orstall, Jim's Child Psychologist
- Vann K. Weller - Vann K. Waller, Forensic Pathologist
- Sam Wells - Sam Woods, Film and Television Director
- Jay Macdonald - Jay McDowell, Web Designer
- Faith Weller - Joyce Dryer, Jim's Landlady
- Marianne Connor - Mary Brenner, TV Reporter
Stefan Avalos previously trained as a classical violinist and has won awards for his music. He later turned to movies and attained a degree in film studies at college. He won awards for short student films and worked in the industry for a period before getting together with Lance Weiler in 1997. They created The Last Broadcast on a small budget and also founded 'Wavelength Releasing' which is considered by some as the beginnings of digital cinema.
Lance Weiler has worked in the industry as a camera operator and assistant. Watch out for Making the Last Broadcast,Stefan’s book on the production techniques that went into the movie, as well as his thoughts on the future of indepdendent filmmaking.