A videotape archivist becomes obsessed with images broadcast through the television airwaves in the late 90s that sets him on a course to solve a mystery that may involve his dead wife in Jacob Gentry’s Broadcast Signal Intrusion which screened at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival.
Harry Shum stars as James in this clear homage to Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma. This could easily be compared to the latter’s Blow Out (1981) starring John Travolta. But instead of a mysterious audio anomaly as in Travolta’s case, James discovers a signal pirated by someone in a creepy mask who says “I’ll fix them, I’ll fix them all.” In his pursuit of the truth, and in true De Palma form, James gets a female sidekick named Alice (Kelly Mack); a pseudo-stalker who claims she follows people as a way to deal with problems. It’s like cutting but less messy, she torts.
Long panning shots, swelling orchestral suspense cues, multiple mid-scene visual shifts, and single-take action sequences prove that Gentry has done his homework and for the most part, the movie works as a thesis to the legendary directors he is borrowing from. That’s refreshing considering the film suffers in the long run with oft-confusing plot twists and complicated delineations.
Broadcast Signal Intrusion (billed as based on an unsolved true story) is a throwback to the analog days of home entertainment which gave The Ring its terror. Here though, despite the Shaye St. John-like creepiness of the video images, there is really nothing unsettling to remember. As far as the gumshoe detective work by James who can’t figure out how intrusive broadcast hackers operate — and sadly by the end, neither do we — it all kind of falls flat and uneventful once we reach the end.
Still, Gentry has a great eye. His work here is probably going to be the jumping-off point for bigger and better things. He knows how to stylishly tell a story and engage the audiences using most of their senses. His patchwork of borrowed director techniques is both clever and nostalgic.
There is a lot to love about Broadcast Signal Intrusion, but like the VHS tapes of yesteryear to use a metaphor; a little adjustment to the tracking could have made it all a bit more clear.
[This review is a part of iHorror’s coverage of the SXSW Film Festival. Release dates and viewing platforms have yet to be determined in some cases. We will give you information on where to watch movies if any are applicable.]