28th Aug2021

Frightfest 2021: ‘Broadcast Signal Intrusion’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Harry Shum Jr., Chris Sullivan, Kelley Mack, Justin Welborn, James Swanton | Written by Tim Woodall, Phil Drinkwater | Directed by Jacob Gentry

Expanded from the 2016 short of the same name, Broadcast Signal Intrusion stars Harry Shum Jr. (Glee, Shadowhunters) as James, a bereaved video archivist who, while logging tapes of old TV broadcasts, comes across a surreal and disturbing clip of a masked entity. He believes it’s the product of broadcast signal hacking, but his discovery takes a sinister turn when he tracks down similar broadcast intrusions that turn his mission even more rabbit-hole obsessive.

OK, lets get the elephant in the room out of the way first. Yes, Broadcast Signal Intrusion is REMARKABLY similar to Brian De Palma’s Blow Out, and to a lesser extent the 2021 horror Sinister. Like remarkably. Of course this is also apparently inspired by actual real-life events that took place in Chicago in the 80s – intrusions on the TV signal in that area that, to this day, remain unsolved. Jacob Gentry’s film (based on the short by this films writers Tim Woodall and Phil Drinkwater) posits, like Sinister, that these intrusions are of a more supernatural variety. With the investigative element of the film clearly lifted from De Palma’s John Travolta-starring 1981 thriller… and many of the conspiracy thriller films of the 70s too.

Which, unfortunately, means Broadcast Signal Intrusion ends up feel very derivative.

It’s not all bad however. For one, Harry Shum Jr. is fantastic in the lead, his dogged determination really coming to the fore and his anxiety over his loss being perfectly intertwined with the spirally insanity of the intrusion investigation. Shum is in fact something of a revelation. He actually gets to ACT here – showing a range and skill I hadn’t seen from him in the past. If you’re only familiar with his TV work and his appearances more comedic franchises, like me, this is an eye-opening performance. He has certainly stepped up (pun intended Step Up fans!) in my estimation. Unfortunately Shum is really the only stand out in this film. Not because the other actors give poor performances, more because the rest of the cast is so badly written. Many of the characters are one-dimensional, and others throwaway roles.

Apart the performance from Harry Shum Jr., Broadcast Signal Intrusion rests solely on the visuals – which reflect the kinds of films I mentioned earlier: classic conspiracy thrillers. Using light and shadow to great effect and throwing in some visual misdirects that, eventually, pay off in the films final third. However by said final act Broadcast Signal Intrusion loses sight of the end goal and becomes something of an damp squib. Maybe this is one short that should’ve stayed just that. Short.

** 2/5

Broadcast Signal Intrusion screened as part of this years Arrow Video Frightfest.


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