Broadcast Signal Intrusion


Only the Creepiest Unsolved Mystery Hack of All Time

Main Cast: Harry Shum Jr, Kelley Mack

Director: Jacob Gentry

If you’re familiar at all with the broadcast signal intrusion phenomena, you’ll dig this movie.  And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you might just dig it even more.

Written by Phil Drinkwater and Tim Woodall and directed by Jacob Gentry in 2021, BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION wins the award for most awkward movie title, but makes up for it in watchability.

The story is about James (Harry Shum Jr., Glee), a video archivist in 1999 Chicago who, when not dealing with the mysterious disappearance of his wife Hannah three years earlier, spends his nights transferring old videotapes over to digital media.  On one of the videos he’s tasked with one night, he finds a broadcast signal intrusion (this is when some outside entity interrupts a station’s broadcast signal with a broadcast of their own, in this case a strange masked figure, possibly a mannequin, against a weird background with even weirder feedback noises coming out of its mouth), which immediately sends him down a rabbit hole only to discover the FCC has pulled certain tapes from public access, even going so far as to flag requests for those tapes with the FBI.

James becomes increasingly obsessed to the point of losing his job, but by then he’s already established a connection with women going missing the day before every intrusion.  The coincidence is too big, and James is convinced Hannah was one of those victims.

BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION (man, I hate that title, even though it does sum up the thrust of the movie pretty well) is a whodunnit mystery with a healthy dose of conspiracy theory thrown in.  I felt that, at an hour and 43 minutes, it could have been a little shorter, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of it in the least.  Okay, maybe a LITTLE bit as it was getting later and I was really tired and kept checking the time in that last half hour.  But for the most part, I was engaged for the bulk of the movie.

Harry Shum Jr. carried BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION very well, taking the viewer along on his journey down the spiral.  There were moments when it felt a bit like maybe Dean Koontz had written the treatment as things just seemed to fall into James’s lap a bit too conveniently, as with the inclusion of Alice (Kelley Mack, The Walking Dead) to his quest.  Alice was a woman who decided one day to start following James because she had nothing better to do, and after trading shots in a bar one day, is staying with James until she gets back on her feet and just happens to be the one person in Chicago who knows Morse Code and is able to translate a phone number buried in the mix of one of the videos.  This number leads to a storage facility in Peoria, and Alice just happens to be such a charmer she’s able to get them access to a locker that isn’t theirs.  The manager even gives them the name of the person who rented the locker because, well, the plot demanded it and in Koontz-speak, that’s good enough.

But, again, Gentry made such a watchable movie, you overlook how everything seems to be handed to James on a platter, all these convenient happenstances that just fall into his lap as character after character come out of the woodwork, out of the shadows and up from the underground, to fill in the holes of his research.  And there are the tapes.  The original broadcast intrusions you’ll find online are weird, but Genrty’s made some downright creepy videos.  Mould maker Rod Hamlin, creature effects designer Dan Martin, and animatronics specialist Thomas Tuohey get special mentions here for the work they did to make those videos as unsettling as they were.

Overall I think the movie succeeded despite being overly ambitious and trying to reach beyond its grasp of what it was.  Again, it could have been about 15 minutes shorter.  And if it had maybe wanted to answer some of the questions I had in the end, like who ransacked James’s apartment while he was gone, among several others, that would have been cool, too.

I saw BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION on AMC+ and if you don’t already have the service so you can watch all the myriad Walking Dead spin-offs or the Interview with the Vampire or Mayfair Witches series, I don’t think this movie is reason enough to pay for the streamer.  If you already have AMC+, yes, definitely give this one a watch some weekend, but if you don’t, there are better, more valid, reasons for subscribing.  I think the original concept from Drinkwater and Woodall was a strong one with a very intelligent script, and Gentry translated that perfectly, with the help of Shum Jr. in the starring role, to the screen.  But there was definitely a kitchen sink approach going on here and I think, in this case, less would have been more.

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