I know I might be playing a little fast and loose with the rules here, since this is technically a film, but I actually went into The Last Broadcast blind when it mysteriously premiered one night years ago on IFC.
At the time, IFC was known to show a ton more documentaries than they do now (where they're now known as the home for repeated viewings of The Boondock Saints) so there was no reason for me to not check it out, especially since the topic seemed pretty interesting on a whole bunch of levels. It wasn't even listed on the on-screen guide; the time period simply read "Movie" and a generic two-hour block of time carved out for it on the screen.
So I watched it and it totally creeped me out. Then something happens…one of those "what the #$%&?!" moments. Then I saw where it went, then how it ended, and then I found myself too damn freaked out to get any sleep. I'd end up with some righteously crappy nightmares for the next five days, which is impressive considering I've been pretty conditioned for horror movies ever since I was a kid. But this one got to me, and it was the intimacy of seeing it on television that made its horrific impact even more potent; and that's an emotional response that I believe would've been lost if I saw the film in theaters first.
Now I'm not going to say that there weren't "found footage" movies pre-The Last Broadcast, but before the first blair got witched or the last field got clovered, there was this late-1990s gem from Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler. It's a "documentary" detailing the mysterious circumstances surrounding a cable access show's final broadcast (a live-feed search for "The Jersey Devil" in the New Jersey Pine Barrens) that ends in blood and unanswered questions.
Here's a breakdown of the film's premise:
"On December 15th 1995 a four-man team from the cable-access program Fact or Fiction braved the desolate New Jersey Pine Barrens determined to deliver a live broadcast of the legendary monster The Jersey Devil. Only one came out alive.It took the jury 90 minutes to sentence the lone survivor to life in prison.One year later filmmaker David Leigh decided to mount his own investigation. Convinced that the man convicted of these terrible crimes was innocent Leigh proposes the murders were committed by someone — or something — else. Could the Jersey Devil still haunt the barrens?"
A BC October: Tales From Terror-Vision! is Bleeding Cool's month-long look back at some lost or forgotten scary moments from the history of television.