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Mike’s Review: Broadcast Signal Intrusion (2021) (SXSW Festival)


★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Jacob Gentry.

Right around the corner from Horror Street, just next to Parallax View Way, and right near Marathon Man Drive, is a fascinating analog look at the lengths obsessives will go to in feeding their obsessions. 

Broadcast Signal Intrusion is a look in to the not-too-distant past replete with analog phones, answering machines, chat rooms, and scads of VHS tapes. James (Harry Shum, Glee), a film technician who converts analog VHS to DVD, stumbles across true madness and evil. As a part of his exceptionally mundane existence, James is in the process of transferring TV news clips from 1987, and the clips are interrupted by a horrifying Devo-like woman robotically gyrating while internet dial-up screeches, bloops, and bleeps flood the tape.

James is rightly convinced that the tape clearly has something to say. The images are discordant and harsh and stick to James’ already fragile psyche. After a couple cyber-visits to his local message board he discovers that the images he’s wandered across are part of a hush-hush FBI investigation known as the Sal-E Sparks Incident.  Sal-E (or Sally) Sparks was a fictitious 1980s TV show involving a robotic woman living with a quintessentially 1980s nuclear fam’. 

I’m coming for you Nite Pirate.

After discovering that the garbled techno-skritches and scratches actually translate to “I Fixed Them All”, coupled with a mighty strong speculation that there’s a real possibility the illegal broadcast signal intrusions are connected to the creepy disappearance of women around the country, he contacts the professor that wrote the definitive Sal-E Sparks Incident report for the FBI/FCC. James confronts the professor who simultaneously proclaims that the case is closed and the James in way over his head. 

The Nite Pirate is behind these broadcast intrusions and James is determined, nay fixated, on dissecting these messages and the puzzle that’s been laid before him.  James eventually teams up with a quizzical young woman, Alice (Kelley Mack, The Walking Dead), who’s also hot on the Nite Pirate’s peculiar pathway. FBI and weirdo sneak thieves look out! This gumshoe duo will not be deterred to find out who has been employing analog malfeasance in a decidedly non-1990s way. 

Broadcast Signal Intrusion does a spectacular job of melding the haunting trumpet soundtrack of a 1970s conspiracy crime thriller (think auteur composer Michael Small) with the vague and bland 1990s time stamp. James and Alice’s fixation is believable and relatable and allows the audience to be violently sucked in to their Matryoshka doll search for the missing women and the possible connection to the positively disturbed Nite Pirate. 

What James finds is not for the faint of heart. Like many before and after him that wandered to the darker corners of the internet, it has nothing but evil and psychosis to offer its wayward travellers. Director Jacob Gentry perfectly melds an incredible tapestry of characters, technology, and darkness together in to a way that oddly makes conspiracy theories make sense — even for just a fleeting moment. 

Broadcast Signal Intrusion is likely Rated R and had its world premiere at the SXSW Festival. 

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