‘Follow the tapes…’
In 1977, an ITN news broadcast going out in southern England was interrupted for six minutes by an audio recording of a man claiming to be an alien named “Vrillon” from the “Ashtar Galactic Command”. In 1987, an episode of Dr. Who was interrupted in Chicago for 90 seconds by a man wearing a Max Headroom mask shouting “They’re coming to get me”. In 2007, a grainy photo of a man and a woman appeared on TV screens in Washington in the early hours of the morning and went undetected for several hours. While that last occasion may have been a technical malfunction, the others remain unsolved, and they are just three prominent examples of many (although most of the others are related to pornography in some way). This phenomenon is officially called a Broadcast Signal Intrusion (BSI) and it should be the perfect premise for a horror film…
James (Harry Shum Jr.) is a video archivist at the tail end of the ’90s who becomes embroiled in a mystery revolving around three eerie examples of Broadcast Signal Intrusion from earlier in the decade. He enlists the help of Alice (Kelley Mack) as the two of them tumble further and further down what appears to be a dark and troubling rabbit hole.
Inspired by Tara the Android, J-horror and some of the real-life examples of BSI mentioned earlier, Jacob Gentry’s film is sinister and unsettling but the payoff never threatens to live up to the set-up and the film’s nothing-burger conclusion is a disappointment after everything that has come before. The videos themselves are fucking horrifying, and Shum Jr does some good work in the lead role, but writers Phil Drinkwater and Tim Woodall get bogged down in an unnecessarily tangled and convoluted plot and when combined with Gentry’s often ethereal direction we are left with a film that just ends up being confusing by the end.
Broadcast Signal Intrusion is great at vibes, this is a genuinely frightening film in places, but the plot sinks the whole thing by the end. A missed opportunity.