Home Film ‘Broadcast Signal Intrusion’ Review – Harry Shum Jr. Shines in this Inventive Horror | SXSW 2021

‘Broadcast Signal Intrusion’ Review – Harry Shum Jr. Shines in this Inventive Horror | SXSW 2021

by Ben Rolph
Harry Shum Jr as seen in the SXSW 2021 film Broadcast Signal Intrusion..

An obsessive video archivist frantically searches for answers after discovering a disturbing tape in this intriguing, yet flawed film. Directed very ably by Jacob Gentry, Broadcast Signal Intrusion as a concept works – a mystery about a niche section of a broadcasting industry that was once attacked by intrusions. These intrusions come in the form of devil-like puppetry as an unknown figure orchestrates a series of spine-chilling clips.

James (Harry Shum Jr.) logs tapes of old television broadcasts. Upon finding a set of cryptic clips embedded in some old files, James obsessively searches for the answers. However, he is not alone as it seems that others and whoever is behind them are aware of his mission. As he gets closer and closer to the truth, he realizes that they could be related to a trauma that has haunted him for years.

The film’s mystery is constantly engaging, as one wonders who is behind these mysterious broadcast signal hackings. It’s a successful exercise in suspense and mystery, clearly inspired by Francis Ford Copolla’s The Conversation, in which the main character becomes obsessed with greater schemes above his pay grade, and finding out clues about cryptic situations. But the film is let down by quite a few scripting clichés throughout and lacks the overall impact of its inspiration.

Broadcast Signal Intrusion was inspired by real-life unsolved broadcast interruptions that happened in the late 1980s. It’s intriguing that the film is based on real-life technological phenomena, as the very concept of intrusions is inherently creepy. As it turns out, exploring their mysterious happenings makes for good horror. The interesting, mostly unexplored, topic and Harry Shum Jr. is where Gentry’s film is at its best. Shum Jr., mainly known for his role on Glee, is as good as ever. He makes you believe in James’ obsessive nature. Couple his committed performance with Gentry’s direction and it’s fantastic, but it slips when it ventures into its explanations.

The information that is conveyed to the audience is interesting and vital, but the way that it’s delivered by the supporting cast and the words they speak are way too obvious. It’s just plain exposition, it doesn’t come across as subtle or natural. The script could have gone a few more rounds in development. Perhaps, if the film were to only follow Shum Jr.’s character as he traces the source of the intrusions and things weren’t so explicitly said by others, then it could have risen higher. It’s a shame because for the most part, one is heavily captivated.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Broadcast Signal Intrusion was selected to play at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival

Check out more of our 2021 festival coverage here!

Follow Senior Film Critic Ben Rolph on Twitter: @THEDCTVSHOW

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