Now available to buy or rent on digital home video in the UK is the paranoid horror-thriller, Broadcast Signal Intrusion. The movie – directed by Jacob Gentry – stars Harry Shum Jr., and tells the story of a video archive specialist called James, who comes across a strange and disturbing broadcast, while archiving some old tapes.
In the movie, it is 1999 and James is archiving video tapes for a local television station. During one of his archiving sessions, he witnesses a hidden message which appears to have been added into a television programme.
The hidden message is nonsensical and also very creepy; however, it intrigues James greatly. The footage includes someone who appears to be wearing a mask, muttering something inaudible, and the whole thing is very mysterious.
Keen to learn more about it, James discovers this message is an example of broadcast signal intrusion – a real-life phenomenon whereby someone illegally hijacks a media signal, to broadcast their own content. In this case, someone hijacked the broadcast of a television programme back in 1987, and it is captured on the tape that James now has in his possession.
But the further James looks into this bizarre message, the more worrying it becomes. This isn’t the only example of a BSI from this hijacker and both the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have previously investigated these messages.
However, even more concerning is the original broadcast date of each message, which coincides with the days that several young women disappeared. Could these messages be linked to the disappearance of these women and could they also be linked to the disappearance of James’ own wife?
In order to uncover the truth, James launches his own investigation into the BSI messages. But will he find the answers he seeks or just more questions?
Now, I would like to tell you that Broadcast Signal Intrusion is a great little horror movie, with some genuinely creepy moments, a significant amount of intrigue, and a superb and startling resolution. However, if I told you all this, then only some of what I said would be true.
While Broadcast Signal Intrusion does indeed include some genuinely creepy moments, as well as a healthy dose of intrigue, the same positives cannot be said about the overall narrative or its resolution. The film has plenty of set up, and a decent amount of ambition, but not nearly enough oomph in the story department and the whole thing runs out of steam before the conclusion.
As such, while Broadcast Signal Intrusion is OK in places, it never quite makes it into ‘great’ territory. It starts off well, but seems to lose its focus along the way.
Once the movie enters its final ten minutes it also becomes quite clear the story will not be wrapping up in a satisfactory manner. It simply doesn’t know what to do with the mystery it has created, so the film just ends, leaving a rather empty feeling in its wake.
As a result of this, while I admit I was drawn into the story quite early, and certainly liked the movie to begin with, I was largely disinterested by the climax. All-in-all, it is a bit of a mixed bag, being neither one thing, nor the other.
On a more positive note, there are two things that do work very well in the movie. The first is lead actor Harry Shum Jr., while the second is the unsettling BSI messages which crop up throughout.
In the case of Shum Jr., I believe he is a more than capable lead for this film and he brings a certain believability to the role as the video archiver turned sleuth. Broadcast Signal Intrusion often plays like a noir thriller, and the actor fits in quite nicely as a would-be detective trying to crack a case.
As for the BSI messages, these are the stand out moments in the movie. Every single one of them is dark and disturbing, and they are really, really good.
Had the film leaned into these sequences a little more, by either increasing the number of BSI messages in the film, or by matching the tone they created, so the rest of the movie was equally as creepy, I’d be serving up more praise. However, as they stand, they are still freaky little sequences, which certainly shine.
I do believe there are parts of a very good film in here, with director Jacob Gentry at times demonstrating a great deal of promise with his picture, but I think the script needed another once over. There’s not quite enough story, and the ending certainly required more work, so it all feels a bit like a missed opportunity.
But Broadcast Signal Intrusion is watchable and I expect some horror fans will find enough enjoyment here to suit their requirements. It didn’t quite work for me, but it might work for you.