Broadcast Signal Intrusion

Written by Phil Drinkwater & Tim Woodall

Directed by Jacob Gentry

USA/2021/104mins

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Seeing something which was never there has led to a catalogue of theories, mysteries, and YouTube Rabbit holes (something which we’ll touch on later). Hours spent chasing lost media or disturbing episodes of kids’ shows, the same is true for intrusive signals, interruptions in decades-old television sequences.

And after discovering one of these peculiar clips where it should not be, archivist James, played by Harry Shum Jr, takes a morose turn that drives his compulsion to solve the source of these intrusions. But the further into the darkness James descends, the more sinister the secrets behind these Broadcast Signal Intrusions. And worse still, whoever is behind these clips seems to be aware of James’ efforts to unearth the truth.

The urge to snatch audience attention within the opening moments of a film has become an art, with various directors resorting to a cheap instigation or thrill. Broadcast Signal Intrusion at first seems to follow this line before subverting it with a genuinely engaging and interesting premise – even if audiences aren’t fully aware of the details just yet.  Broadcast Signal Intrusion forces audiences to the brim of their seats – constantly unaware, though invested in where the tale could be heading, and what other mysteries may make an appearance.

Harkening back to an era of analogue technology, a resurgence of this once life-defining tech has found a resurgence as a specific genre, Analogue Horror – a serial offender of the now infamous Rabbit Hole of online videos. A slew of digital pieces created for online consumption, director Jacob Gentry’s horror-tinted dreamscape drama ventures into the vulgarities of conspiracy theory and creepypasta of the rising online culture of the late nineties and early noughties. Phil Drinkwater’s narrative captures a time where Broadcast intrusion was a possibility, where the regular terrestrial programming could be altered, taken advantage of and hijacked.

Compassionate, our protagonist James is a loose filler for the role of Alice of the world of Wonderland (though a young woman’s appearance furthers the Wonderland theme) – his curiosity and dedication bordering on sweeping in his outlandish acceptance of perfect strangers. Shum carries through much of the scenes which struggle to cash in on revelation, as the plausibility of Gentry’s writing begins to waver. There’s a cry for the film to accept the unacceptable, rather than attempt a grounded explanation, to dive further into the inventory of imagination and ride this unhinged choice of horror to the finale.

Where the film functions at its peak are where it places understanding in our desperation and thirst for easy answers – even if these are compounded in a misplaced faith in media that refuses to reveal its hand. At the heart of this thriller come analogue horror, obsession and grief sit centrefold, and our hunger at cramming conspiracy to fill the void they leave. Scott Thiele’s constructive omissions in cinematography further the film’s nature of moving away from spoon-feeding its audience, with rougher editing to tie into the analogue and ‘choppy’ technology of the time.

Beneath the static and shock imagery, is a rather intellectual challenge of masculine crisis and the lines between delusion and reality as the film strays from crime thriller and into an abstract Lewis Carroll nightmare. As the film pushes further into Wonderland, the Looking Glass begins to feel all too real. Intrigue is Broadcast Signal Intrusion’s ultimate tool – and where answers dig into, the film slips, nearly collapsing in on itself. It makes for a murkier narrative, one which is to the detriment of the film but cannot take away from some solid performances from Shum and Kelley Mack, nor the seedy underbelly of this theatrical ARG.

Broadcast Signal Intrusion is screening in cinemas from March 25th,

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