Following its world premiere at SXSW and after thrilling UK audiences at FrightFest, Broadcast Signal Intrusion finally filters through to the mainstream to allow viewers to unlock its mysteries. Set in the late 90s, a video archivist unearths a series of sinister pirate broadcasts, growing obsessed with uncovering the conspiracy behind them.
The aforementioned intrusions are truly unsettling. Creepy mannequin-esque animatronics behaving bizarrely with no clear rhyme or reason to their narrative. The destabilising effect is compounded by choppy camera work and freakish, garbled audio.
The question becomes more pressing: who made these broadcasts, and why? Jacob Gentry’s film is admirably grungy and lo-fi in its execution, echoing the mind of its protagonist who sits in a dark room all day analysing footage. James (Harry Shum Jr.) is a man fuelled by the loss of his wife (Kelley Mack). Unfortunately, because of the unresolved nature of her disappearance, he has long been denied closure. That grief inevitably begins to filter into his work until it becomes an all-encompassing, all-consuming quest for answers.
In that regard, James joins a long canon of cinematic characters who devote themselves to a search for answers, even where there may be none: Leonard Shelby in Memento, Rex in Spoorloos, or Enid in Censor. The further down the rabbit hole Gentry takes the story, the clearer it becomes that the answers James seeks – if there are any to be found – are unlikely to do him much good.
Hitchcock famously said that “mystery is when the spectator knows less than the characters in the movie. Suspense is when the spectator knows more than the characters in the movie.” Broadcast Signal Intrusion keeps the audience in the dark as much as it does its protagonist, with those on – and in front of – the screen uncovering key information at the same time. The viewer inevitably grows more entangled in James’ investigation, and by extension becomes complicit in his increasingly erratic behaviours.
The danger in seeking everything in nothing is that it bounds the investigator to create their own narrative to fill in the gaps. Whilst James may reach an end to his journey, things are not wrapped up in a pretty little bow. In fact, Broadcast Signal Intrusion ends with more questions than answers, leaving frustrated viewers to take their own trip down the rabbit hole of Reddit threads and message boards in search for the truth.
Broadcast Signal Intrusion will be in UK Cinemas from 25th March and available on Digital Download & Blu-ray from 28th March.