Broadcast Signal Intrusion Plot Synopsis
Broadcast Signal Intrusion is not an easy film to understand. It centres on a young man called James whose wife went missing several years previously. There is the suggestion that she might have been abducted but we don’t know for sure if this is correct.
We follow James as he carries out his work archiving broadcast video tapes for a local television station. On one of the tapes, there is evidence of a ‘broadcast signal intrusion,’ an act of piracy wherein the broadcast is hacked by somebody who then plants their own footage into the transmission.
The footage contains images of a masked woman inside a set of a house and there is strange audio in the background. Who is this woman? We don’t know but James thinks this mysterious hack might have something to do with the disappearance of women who went missing without a trace a decade or so earlier.
As he presumably thinks the hack might also clue him in to the location of Hannah, his missing wife, he begins an obsessive quest for the truth.
During the course of the film, he finds another videotape that has also been hacked with footage of a woman wearing a mask. He later learns of a third videotape and upon finding it, discovers a connection to Hannah.
So, was Hannah abducted too?
Let’s journey with James down the rabbit hole of this mystery.
What is the link between the videotapes and the missing women?
On the 2nd of May, the day before the first intrusion, a young woman named Frederica Sexton went missing in Chicago. Similarly, a woman named Marie Bedford went missing on the day before the second intrusion.
After speaking to a rare antique dealer who gives James access to unredacted FBI files about the cases of these missing women, James spots the connection to the tapes as the filmed footage on each is dated one day after their disappearance.
Could this be a coincidence? James doesn’t think so and he arranges a meeting with FCC bureau chief Dr. Stuart Lithgow to discuss his findings.
Stuart had carried out an investigation into the tapes himself but after taking it to the FBI, no evidence between the tapes and the women was found.
Stuart also followed the pattern of intrusions and he believed the third intrusion would have taken place on November 23, 1996. This is of particular interest to James as the day before this, his wife Hannah disappeared. When he later finds the third tape, this apparent connection to her disappearance seems to be clear.
How does James find the third videotape?
James meets Alice, a young woman who had been stalking him for no particularly good reason. But despite her odd behaviour, he decides to let her join him on his mission after learning she may have research skills that could help him.
With her help, he is able to decode a phone number that leads to a storage unit. When they open up the unit, they discover a phone connected to an answering machine. James believes the unit has been rented by the person behind the signal intrusions but Brad, the facility owner, is reluctant to reveal the person’s identity.
Brad then receives a phone call (we don’t know from who) and this gives him the incentive to reveal the identity of the person who has rented the unit. Apparently, it belongs to a man named Stephen Meyer, who had once confessed to the signal hijackings in 1987.
James and Alice visit Stephen and discover his motive for hacking. He was an outcast kid at high school who found solace in chat rooms where he met a group of people known as Phreakers who could hack into any phone line in the country. They inspired Steven to carry out his own signal intrusions but rather than try to stay hidden, he planted numbers that could be traced back to him so he could have his moment of glory.
James isn’t sure about Stephen’s story as he is convinced the hacking came from somebody who abducted women. He then hears noises upstairs but for some reason doesn’t investigate these. He gets up to go but before he leaves, Stephen tells him the third tape will give him all the answers.
But where is the third tape? Strangely, it turns up at James’ apartment which has seemingly been ransacked. He plays the tape, titled “Hannah Ballet ’96’ ” and as expected, there is another intrusion on it that took place the day after Hannah’s disappearance.
On the tape is a clue – the location of a farmhouse – and James believes this must be the location of the kidnapper.
Who is at the farmhouse?
At the farmhouse is a man called Michael Gardiner, who has a mark on his hand which resembles that seen on a person in the videotape. James locks Michael in a cage and tries to make him confess to the abduction of the women but the man refuses to do so.
However, it is clear that Michael has something to do with their disappearance as James finds the mask and the set props from the video inside a shed. James makes Michael rebuild the set and then orders him to confess to the abductions while wearing the mask.
We then see James outside digging a hole with a shovel. Presumably, this is a sign that he killed Michael and then buried him.
What happened to Hannah?
We can’t be exactly sure. For one thing, we don’t know if Michael did abduct the women. It seems likely, given the location of the mask and the set props, but he was forced into a confession by James. Was it a true confession? It’s hard to say. If it was true, he likely killed Hannah and the other women but there is also the suggestion during the interrogation that Michael’s dad may have been involved.
It might be that Hannah wasn’t abducted in the first place. There is the possibility that she may have committed suicide. James mentions visions of a bridge to Alice and it could be that these are repressed memories of the place where his wife killed herself.
There is also the chance that James killed Hannah, accidentally or on purpose. In the penultimate moments of the film, James hits a woman with his car but when examining the body, discovers that it’s not a woman at all but an android, similar to that seen in one of the signal intrusions. Could this be a muddled flashback to the day that he killed Hannah? Or is he suffering from delusions?
If James is delusional, it might be that Alice didn’t really exist (she disappears towards the end of the film) and it might be that Michael wasn’t responsible for the abduction and apparent murders.
As you can gather, the truth about Hannah’s disappearance or James’s state of mind isn’t clear. If you have your own theories about what may have happened in the film, please leave us a comment below.
Read More: Broadcast Signal Intrusion Movie Review