Broadcast Signal Intrusion review – unsettling horror harks back to analogue era | Movies


At one point in this unsettling paranoia thriller, a character warns protagonist James (Harry Shum Jr) that he’s at risk of going down “a rabbit hole”. Just in case you didn’t catch that Lewis Carroll reference, another character who helps James out on his quest is a young woman with long flowing hair named Alice (Kelley Mack). There’s a bad guy who wears a hat later on too, but that might be an exegesis too far.

Nevertheless, director Jacob Gentry’s horror-tinged drama, its script by Phil Drinkwater and Tim Woodall, ventures into the oneiric underground world of conspiracy theories and creepy online culture in 1999, when the latter at any rate was only just getting started. Like the recent British horror feature Censor or 2012’s Berberian Sound Studio, this harks back to an era dominated by analogue technology, a time when it was possible, as is the case here, for hackers to interrupt regularly scheduled terrestrial programming with a clip of someone in an uncanny kabuki mask making freaky weird noises that just might make sense if played backwards.

James comes across the clip because it’s his job to transfer broadcast material to a different media for archival purposes, but something in the “intrusion” haunts his already fragile mind. His ballet dancer wife, you see, went missing a few years ago and was never found, and her disappearance was put down to probable suicide. But what if there was a different explanation, and maybe the intrusion and the disappearance of other missing women were all connected?

Until the finale, when things go seriously awry, Gentry keeps teasing that there will be a plausible explanation for all this – be it the revelation of an actual conspiracy or just the side effects of fevered imaginations twisted by grief and loneliness. But that just-inside-the-realism line writes a cheque the film can’t cash. You kind of hope it will go full-on Lost Highway/Mulholland Drive-era David Lynch, but no joy there either. Still, Shum is quite empathic as the troubled hero, even when he keeps passively accepting the most outlandish suggestions from near perfect strangers. Even the little girl protagonist of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was more curious.

Broadcast Signal Intrusion is released on 25 March in cinemas.

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