BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION movie poster | ©2021 Dark Sky Films

BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION movie poster | ©2021 Dark Sky Films

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Harry Shum Jr., Kelley Mack, Justin Welborn, Chris Sullivan
Writers: Phil Drinkwater & Tim Woodall
Director: Jacob Gentry
Distributor: Dark Sky Films
Release Date: October 22, 2021

 BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION is a feature film based on the 2016 short of the same title. Phil Drinkwater & Tim Woodall jointly wrote and directed the short. They serve as screenwriters here, with Jacob Gentry taking over as director.

Without seeing the short, it’s impossible to know if something has been lost in translation. The feature version of BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION is effectively creepy, but the longer its mystery stretches out, the more it feels like the payoff ought to be tremendously potent. Alas, it is not.

We are in 1999 Chicago, where James (Harry Shum Jr.) has a job transferring tapes at a small TV station. In his spare time, James repairs video cameras.

James is also grieving the loss of a woman in his life. One of the film’s irritants is that it turns out nothing would be spoiled by giving us the details of this loss early on, but BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION guards all of its information closely.

One tape in the station archives, from 1987, has an interruption in an episode of a syndicated sci-fi episodic, DON CRONOS. As two of the show’s characters argue over an experiment into the nature of life, death, and reality, they are suddenly replaced by a moaning figure in a white mask and a dark wig, making unintelligible sounds, with odd noises in the background.

James’s investigation into this oddity leads him to a similar incident a week later. He becomes increasingly obsessed with tracking down the source and meaning of the broadcast signal intrusions, especially when he discovers some crimes that happened around the same time.

For a little while, it seems like BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION may be playing in the same space as David Cronenberg’s 1983 VIDEODROME, but this story doesn’t have the older film’s scope or wildness.

There’s no shame in that – there’s only one David Cronenberg – but BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION seems so caught up in adding strange curlicues to James’s quest that it paints itself into a corner. We start feeling like there’s no way all of this can add up to a satisfying whole, and we’re right.

Shum gives his all to James’s prickly pride in his work and frustrated intensity, and Kelley Mack has charm as a young woman who may or may not be an ally.

There’s fun to be had with the old computer tech, and the hairstyles and wardrobe on the DON CRONOS clips are superbly on point. There’s also a sci-fi sitcom that factors into the story with a premise that sounds like something a network really would have aired in the ‘80s.

Director Gentry does a lot with clutter, small spaces and darkness to create a mood of paranoia, but neither he nor the writers have worked out a way to make BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION deliver what it seems to promise.

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