Broadcast Signal Intrusion (2021) | Discussion, Ending & Spoilers | Film Review
Broadcast Signal Intrusion (2021) is an American mystery horror film written by Phil Drinkwater and Tim Woodall and directed by Jacob Gentry. It stars Harry Shum Jr. and Kelley Mack. It was released on October 22, 2021 on Video on Demand (VOD) and distributed by MPI Media Group/Dark Sky Films.
In the beginning of the film, we are introduced to James (Harry Shum Jr.). James works nights at a business that converts videotapes to DVD's. We learn that it is 1999 and in 1996, James' wife went missing and he misses her terribly. We also learn that James never found out what happened to his wife because her car was found on a bridge and law enforcement never found her body, so he was left to assume she committed suicide, never figuring out the reason why.
One night as James is converting videos to DVD, he is watching an old news broadcast and sees that it is interrupted by an odd broadcast. A person with a creepy mask appears to be in a room. They seem to be speaking, but the speech is garbled and several beeps and screeches are heard. James isn't sure what to make of this broadcast and sets to find out if anyone else knows anything about it.
James learns of a second tape and watches that tape as well. It is just as strange as the first tape and he finds himself obsessed with what the tapes mean. He starts to have nightmares of the person in the tapes and finds it difficult to concentrate and complete his work, making his boss angry.
We learn that several agencies investigated the broadcasts, but nothing ever came of it; they never figured out who made the broadcasts. Undeterred, James goes and talks to Dr. Stuart Lithgow (Steve Pringle), who tells him that he will not find what he is looking for by requesting the FBI's file via the Freedom of Information Act. He does, however, tell James that there were rumors that there was a third broadcast, but no one ever found evidence of it. He tells James the date of the rumored third broadcast, which was broadcasted the day after his wife went missing, November 23, 1996.
A couple of nights later, James is at work and is contacted in a chatroom by a mysterious person who knows that he is looking for the third broadcast and the FBI file. The person tells James to meet him and they will help James get the information he is looking for.
James heads out the next day and finds the place the person directed him to is an antique shop. He heads to the basement and finds a man who tells him he can get him the information he is looking for, but James must first deliver a package for him. Wary, James agrees to the terms.
When James gets to the place the man directed him to, he is confronted by a wild looking man. The man seems mentally unstable and asks for the package. When he opens it, he shows a note to James that tells him "This is the man you are looking for." Confused, James presses the man for information and the man tells him to stop looking into the mysterious broadcasts or he will drive himself crazy. James tries to talk to the man to find out more and the man runs off.
Frustrated, James returns home to find his front door open and his belongings scattered. Nothing appears to be missing however, and as James looks around, he finds a file. The file is the FBI file he had been searching for.
The rest of the film follows James as he tries to find the third broadcast, what the FBI discovered, who is behind the broadcasts and why he is so obsessed with the broadcasts.
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* Discussion contains spoilers
This film is heavily influenced by the broadcast signal intrusions (Max Headroom signal hijacking) in Chicago on November 22, 1987. The story of what happened is really interesting and they never caught the person or people who made the broadcasts.
What Happens Next in the Film?
After James receives the FBI file, he notices that a figure has been following him for a few days. He sees the person walk into a bar and follows them in. It turns out it is a woman named Alice (Kelley Mack) and she is interested in the broadcast intrusions as well. She offers to help James and he accepts. Watching the broadcasts together, Alice figures out that the beeps in the broadcasts are Morse code, which lead them to discover a phone number. They call it and get a recording, which sounds just like the two broadcasts.
They track the phone number to a storage unit in Illinois and convince the man who operates the storage facility to open it and help them. He opens the unit and all that's in there is a phone and an answering machine. He tells them the storage unit was rented out by a man named Stephen and gives them his address. They go to Stephen's address and wait for him to check his mail. When he finally checks it, they confront him and he tells them to follow him to his house.
When James and Alice get to the house, Stephen leads them to his basement and explains that he was a loner in school and no one liked him. He became interested in broadcast intrusions when a teacher explained a past broadcast intrusion. He knew that he could do his own broadcast intrusion easily and found that several popular students wanted him to help them with a broadcast intrusion of their own. Stephen agreed and set it up, proud that no one ever figured out who it was. He tells Alice and James that he added the Morse code to see if anyone would figure it out so he could eventually tell his story and get credit for his genius.
The entire time Stephen is talking, James and Alice hear creaking from upstairs, like someone is walking around. When they ask Stephen who is upstairs, he tells them it's none of their business. Scared, James and Alice leave and head to a hotel.
James tells Alice he doesn't believe Stephen and wonders if Stephen kidnapped several local women, including his wife, and the tapes were a way for him to confess. We learn that each weird broadcast came after the disappearance of each woman, including James' wife, which is why he is sure the third broadcast exists. Alice tells James she believes Stephen was telling the truth and James is not sure what to make of Alice's conviction.
The day after Alice and James spend the night in the hotel, James awakes to find his tapes missing and Alice gone. He finds an dropped cigarette on the balcony outside and smokes it, wondering where Alice went and why she took the tapes.
James heads home and finds his file missing and all the information he had on the broadcasts destroyed. He looks around and finds the only mementos of his wife safe, and as he looks at the tape of her last ballet, sees the date on it, November 23, 1996. James gets an idea that the broadcast could be on the tape, plays it and sees the third broadcast. The tape shows the same room as before, but the person's mask is slightly different and the broadcast includes a picture of a billboard.
James figures out where the billboard is and goes to the location. When he gets there, he finds Alice's hat and a mysterious man. The man tries to run out of the house, but James attacks him with a hammer and puts him in a dog cage.
James tells the man to lead him to where he filmed the videos, yet the man keeps denying he did anything. The man eventually leads him to a barn where it looks like a set was torn down. He spies the mask from the third broadcast and becomes enraged, telling the man that they will build the set again and the man will confess what he did. James gets the man to read a confession he made for the man and films it. We don't see James kill the man, but we see James later patting down dirt on what appears to be a grave with a shovel he brought.
James heads out and everything seems to be concluded. As James is driving, however, he sees a woman in the middle of the road and hits her. He gets out and runs to her, believing he can help, but all he sees is a person that looks like the person in the tapes. As he takes their mask off, he sees a robot underneath, thus concluding the film.
What Does It Mean?
I think this film can be explained in one of two ways. Either James is an unreliable narrator and killed his wife or everything is straightforward and he found the killer, killed the man who kidnapped and murdered three women, then killed the man.
I believe that James is an unreliable narrator. I think that he killed his wife and is having a mental breakdown. From the beginning of the film, we see that James works at night, but he never comes into contact with anyone, including his boss. His boss communicates with James via sticky notes and we never see James' coworkers or boss, which is strange since he works in a big building.
The entire film, James is told again and again that if he continues in his quest to figure out the broadcasts, he will drive himself crazy. Yet he keeps going and it is strange how easily he gains the information once he decides to go further. Different people keep showing up, giving him the information he needs, then tell him to stop pushing to solve the mystery.
To me, it's as if the people he meets represent his brain telling him to stop trying to remember he killed his wife or he will lose his mind. At the end, James kills the man he deems responsible for the killings, but the house the man lives in seems more like it could be James' old house or possibly even the house he is living in currently, but he is in so much denial he can't face reality.
The home the man who is apparently responsible for James' wife's murder contains Alice's hat, but I have to wonder if Alice's hat is really his wife's hat and it's just another clue that tells us James killed his wife. In my eyes, James lived in that house, he had a wife and a dog and he killed them for some reason.
He concocted this whole mystery because he couldn't take the guilt anymore. His brain was struggling to show him both that he killed his wife, but also protecting him from figuring out the truth because he probably wouldn't be able to handle the reality of what he did. I think the struggle is represented by the characters in the film telling him to stop and James pressing on, regardless of what he was told.
On the other hand, everything could be straightforward, but I don't really think that's the case here.
Have you seen this film? Are you interested in seeing this film? If you have seen it, do you agree with my explanation of what happened? Do you think there is another explanation? Please share your thoughts below!