Chicago, 1999, a darkened basement room lit only by the monitor screens and the lights on the banks of video editing and conversion equipment, James working through the night transferring old U-matic tapes to DVD. Waking at his desk from nightmares of the last time he saw his wife Hannah, a dancer frozen in motion as though someone pressed the pause button on her life, he sees a broadcast signal intrusion in the archive recording he is working through.
A masked face, inhuman, a noise emanating from it, intimidating – is it gibberish or can it be deciphered? Fascinated, James is drawn to investigate the interruption which was powerful enough to block out a television channel and finds that neither the FCC nor the FBI were able to apprehend nor even identify those responsible, but in a chat room he stumbles upon a theory that the events were linked with unsolved missing persons cases, the unverified third incident coinciding with the date Hannah vanished.
A genuine phenomenon rarely witnessed, the most famous perhaps being the 1987 interruption of a rerun of Horror of Fang Rock by an individual dressed as Max Headroom, Broadcast Signal Intrusion is directed by Jacob Gentry from a script by Phil Drinkwater and Tim Woodall which sees Shadowhunters‘ Harry Shum Jr willingly throwing himself down the rabbit hole of belief and credulity, seeking answers and closure to the questions which have haunted him for three years.
Is James uncovering a truth previously hidden in plain sight or is he being drawn deeper deliberately? Media professor Doctor Stuart Lithgow (Steve Pringle) warns him off the investigation; is it out of genuine concern for James’ wellbeing or because he does not wish the truth uncovered? Streetwise stalker Alice (Kelley Mack) sees patterns James doesn’t, but will only trade information for favours, preferably when he is inebriated and off-guard, a common theme in all his encounters, the burnt-in afterimage of his own approach to repairing audio visual equipment.
The characters feeling real, strangers both weary and wary, none offer kindly platitudes to make a moment pretty or poignant, offering only cruel honesty as James’ increasing obsession takes him on a descent into a disturbing and menacing underworld populated by bizarre and threatening individuals, some of them left deeply damaged by their own attempts to comprehend the mystery of the broadcast signal intrusion.
The tapes carrying the comfortingly degraded fuzz of the analogue era, like Ringu, Berberian Sound Studio or Svart Cirkel the medium itself conveys the madness and dislocation, the frustrating conviction that one more viewing will persuade it to reveal its timecoded secrets, the television an accepted part of every household over which the owner presumes they have control but which can become a hostile intruder, the image already glimpsed before the channel is changed, taking root in the mind and mutating into something more hideous and inescapable which plays out behind the eyes.
Broadcast Signal Intrusion will be in UK cinemas from Friday 25th March and available on Digital Download and Blu-ray from Monday 28th March