One year before the runaway hit, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (and now we know there’s a new one coming soon), the film that would usher in a whole new horror filmmaking subgenre – found footage – there was a chilling mockumentary called THE LAST BROADCAST. The quality may not have been as good as Blair Witch, but I think that’s what made it all the more chilling. Why didn’t it hit it big? It all came down to that new fangled thing, the internet. In 1999, The creators of Blair Witch used the power of internet viral marketing before it was even called viral marketing. In 1998, THE LAST BROADCAST didn’t have that same hype, with people assuming the film was real before it even came out. The producers had a web presence, but they weren’t quite as savvy. It came and went, largely ignored.
Which is sad, because in some ways, THE LAST BROADCAST is even scarier. When you watch it, you feel like you’re viewing something that shouldn’t be seen. I’m not going to say it’s the bees knees, but for one of the first entries in found footage, it’s up there with The Poughkeepsie Tapes (which can give you a case of the everlasting goosebumps).
Here’s my favorite part of THE LAST BROADCAST. In it, two guys with a local cable access show set off into New Jersey’s Pine Barrens to search for The Jersey Devil. Sign me up. I’ve been to the Barrens. Even without a legendary creature, the place is spooky as hell.
Check out the trailer :
I first saw the entire movie on YouTube, but it’s since been taken down. However, you can now grab a copy at The Last Broadcast website.
Now, remember, this is a low budget flick. Making the hosts some dudes with a cable access show was the perfect framework to set expectations in terms of film and production quality. It’s done that way on purpose, but also allows the viewer to make some concessions. Don’t expect any crazy creature effects. This is all about atmosphere and mystery.
If you’re a horror and cryptid completist like me, I strongly urge you to check it out. And I triple dog dare you to venture out into the Pine Barrens at night.
Growing up in the 70s, I was exposed to dozens of horror films from the 50s and 60s that centered around man’s environment getting revenge on the beasts who dared tamper with or destroy the world around them. Those movies, along with Universal’s monster movies, were my ‘starter-horror’. They’re what made me what I am today. Not sure if I should thank them or sue anyone left alive who made them.
Guest blogger Spencer Mitchell loves the Eco-Horror sub genre as much as I do. So this week, I’m jumping in the back seat and letting Spencer take the wheel. Take it away, #1 Hellion!
Many popular films and novels feature conflicts involving man vs. man or man vs. beast. But what happens when humans face conflict with the world around them? The world is indifferent to the suffering of humans, but that doesn’t mean the fates of the two are not intertwined. So here are five of the scariest movies that show what happens when we don’t respect the power of planet Earth and the end of the world comes for us.
The idea of nature rebelling against humankind is not a new one. In 1954, just as the world was in full terror due to the Cold War and the rise of nuclear technology, the horror movie Them! provided quite the scare. This movie was one of many “big bug” films that focused on nuclear testing gone awry to create humongous, radioactive creatures. Though it is remembered as little more than a classic black-and-white B-movie today, Them! certainly shocked audiences with its frank portrayal of what could happen to the natural world in the event of an atomic incident. (Hunter’s note, Them! is one of my all time favorite movies.)
In 1976, tiny creatures went rogue once more in the sci-fi thriller The Food of the Gods, loosely based on an H.G. Wells novel. This time, the abnormal growth in animals is due to a miraculous “food” that bubbles up from the earth to provide sustenance for rats, wasps, and worms. This substance (a result of man-made waste) ends up making the animals grow larger than humans, disturbing the gentle balance between man and nature. Though the film was financially successful, it is widely forgotten today – which is actually rather unfortunate since the theme of ecology striking back against industry remains prevalent in our modern world.
In the 2004 action movie The Day After Tomorrow, Manhattan is thrust into a climate-change-induced Ice Age, leaving millions stranded in a polar prison. Though the film dramatizes the effects of global warming, it definitely serves as a potent worst-case scenario. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), drastic climate change is in our imminent future whether we like it or not, forecasting “a temperature rise of 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century.” This will eventually cause changes in precipitation patterns, droughts, the melting of ice caps, and even stronger hurricanes.
When a horror master decides to take on the subject of man versus nature, you know the result will be a chilling portrayal of what can happen when the world fights back. M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening involves a mysterious plant-based neurotoxin that drives those exposed to it to commit suicide. This film may include more fantasy elements than others, but the message is clear – when science messes with the natural world, the natural world has ways of defending itself and seeking retaliation.
Found-footage horror films have always served to bring the viewer in closer to the subject and make it feel more realistic. This is even more chilling when the subject is a deadly waterborne epidemic that hits a small Massachusetts town during a local festival. In 2012’s The Bay, hundreds of townspeople succumb to a flesh-eating, stomach-turning illness caused by unsafe waste disposal that was covered up by the local government. The entire event is captured on film by a young reporter and presented as a mockumentary. It’s a chilling horror film, but it also shows how far some people are willing to go to deny the effect humans have had on nature.
Though many of these films were made to entertain and frighten viewers, they are not created in vain. They show what could happen to our world if we keep disturbing nature’s delicate balance…and what will happen if we don’t make the changes soon.
Yep, I dropped a lot of F bombs in this post’s title. Before I ramble on, I wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to you all. If there’s one thing I’m grateful for (actually, there are many), it’s all of you who wander over to my blog and read my books and just keep me going. You are all bad motor scooters and mean go-getters.
I also want to give thanks to fellow author and horror douche (his words, not mine), Jason Brant for being on the Monster Men. We actually shot 2 episodes with Jason because we had such a good time. The first one is all about found footage movies. Just when I thought the subgenre was done, a slew of new flicks flooded the market this year. Jack, Jason and I go through a bunch, telling you which ones to seek out and which to avoid.
As you can see, I found my cowboy hat in the bottom of my closet just before we started filming, much to my wife and daughters’ chagrin. My youngest asked me if I was going to a rodeo, since I was also wearing a flannel shirt and jeans.
Just a quick update on the writing front, my next cryptid novel is in the hands of my beta readers and line editor, aka my sister. As soon as I sent it out, I got to work on a little novella that promises to be a demented ride straight to hell. If all goes well, expect 4 new books in 2015, plus some short stories.
And now I’ll leave you to your turkey and booze and football. Enjoy the long weekend.