‘Broadcast Signal Intrusion’ Ending Explained: What happened to Hannah?

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.


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16 thoughts on “‘Broadcast Signal Intrusion’ Ending Explained: What happened to Hannah?”

  1. Thanks for your comment Waffles.

    You’re right about the Alice in Wonderland reference. It makes sense in context with the film and it’s baffling narrative.


  2. EDIT: This is a repost to fix a grammatical and spelling error, apologies!

    I just saw this movie myself for the first time, and in reading these comments I can’t believe nobody’s made the connection between James’ “stalker” being named Alice and the ex-FCC director telling James to “not go down this rabbit hole.” It’s a blatant reference to Lewis Carrol’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Chapter 1 of the novel is entitled “Down the Rabbit Hole” for Christ’s sake.

    Given how abruptly “Alice” disappears and how strange it is that James’ barely acknowledges finding Alice’s hat at Michael’s derelict home, I find it very likely that “Alice” never existed. I think her appearance in the film was meant to indicate to the viewer that James had well and truly passed down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, and anything you see from that point on should be treated as if it were being conveyed by an unreliable narrator.

  3. I just saw this movie myself for the first time, and in reading these comments I can’t believe nobody’s made the connection between Jame’s “stalker” being named Alice and the ex-FCC director telling James to “not go down this rabbit hole.” It’s a blatant reference to Lewis Carrol’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Chapter 1 of the novel is entitled “Down the Rabbit Hole” for Christ’s sake.

    Given how abruptly “Alice” disappears and how strange it is that James’ barely acknowledges finding Alice’s hat at Michael’s derelict home, I find it very likely that “Alice” never existed. I think she was meant to indicate to the viewer that James had well and truly passed down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, and anything you see from that point on should be treated as if it were being conveyed by an unreliable narrator.

  4. I have watched this movie carefully 3 times. I know I will watch it again because A. There is much to like, and B. It just cannot be totally explained. The comments from 2 of you enlightened me a lot. Lisa-Mari Pedersen, I like your android theory. And John b, thank you for mentioning Alice’s hat. I totally missed that and it explains a lot, mainly Alice’s disappearance and the connection of that with James finding the tape in his ransacked apartment. Anyway, this is one of the best modern movies I have ever seen.

  5. Did anyone notice that Chris Sullivan’s character said he turned 15 in ’87 – this would make his character only 27 years old in 1999. This seemed like a crazy stretch to me, as he was 41 or so during filming. Mistake or purposeful?

  6. It’s a self-perpetuating, self-sustaining robot-to-human-to robot (and on…) serial killer recruitment tool. The tapes each winnow down who will be the human serial killer successor who kidnaps & kills women & builds creepy demonic robots that are then videotaped. Our hero killed the bad guy at the end, only to himself become a murderer & be infected with evil from the robot he accidentally hit with his car. Our hero will continue to use other people in this 3-step process, both willing & unwilling participants (as we’ve seen with the dude in his basement, and the other who slit his own throat), then go big to medium to small audience sizes (in that order) with his broadcast intrusions, to find his successor that will kill him and keep this demonic video robot time virus neverending cycle going forever, modernizing itself as technology continues to improve.

  7. I’m glad that I’m not the only one who loved this film! It was so creepy. I love these VHS mysteries. It reminded me of “Tara the Android”. I think it was inspired by this weird video called “I Feel Fantastic”; the android in the intrusions has the same clothes as Tara. It was really great. I recommend to watch it in autumn. Great Halloween vibes!

  8. I agree with the theterminologist. His conclusion makes the most sense. The dude actually called a police station lol.

  9. Thanks for your thoughts. Very plausible suggestion. It was a baffling movie but I appreciate your take on it.

  10. I just finished this one and here’s my take on it. The girls went missing right before the intrusion, and in one of the videos there was this android. The program that was interupted was under a show about a husband who made his wife into an android. During one of the intrusions they said “I fixed them”. I’m thinking the people behind the intrusion kidnapped these girls and made them into androids. They fixed them. The last girl, his sidekick, was also taken and made into an android and the father was still alive and made here walk in front of the car. At first I did’nt understand squatdiddlydoo when it came to the ending, but this is the most logic explanation that my mind could come up with.

  11. Here is what happened. Alice is Hannah and Hannah is Alice. We know “Alice” isn’t her real name and that James is mentally unstable. I called Chicago PD and more than a few people go missing everyday. So that dude who killed himself was right about the missing girls having no correlation to the intrusions, there is no connection. If you actually look at the girl in the black and white footage on his screen when the dude tried to buy his camera, it looks like Alice. It is her. So James spends 3 years working graveyard wondering why he can’t find his wife while she changes her name, more than once in a lifetime (and admits it), then wanders/stalks back to him. However, he can’t even recognize her anymore and, the whole time she is with him, she wants him to remember. This is why she helps him on a nonsense quest to find the broadcast intruders. Once she realizes he’s too far gone she drops off the last video at his place and her hat at Michael’s (not necessarily in that order depending on distance and time). She knew they’d never be together in the same way again so she gave him what he wanted.. a villain, an ending. She was no stranger to lying, disappearing, and starting over so that’s what she did. She made a mistake the first time leaving him. To her dismay, this made sure he’d lose it and never believe she could come back. The ending is dumb and could mean nothing. Could be imagined, could be Alice, could be an accident that a delusional guy saw a robot in lieu of a person, .. who knows? Anyway, I’ve watched this movie too many times to spend more time trying to make up more pieces to a puzzle that never needed solving, because that’s usually what happens.

  12. How come nobody noticed Alice’s hat in micheals home, I think the android at the end was a person but his mind made him see a robot to help him deal with all the trauma he’s been through. All the women that were killed were robots in the film micheal made so his brain is wired to se it like that

  13. Hey, thanks for your thoughts. You might be right with one of your theories – until the director reveals all (which will probably be never), we might never know. It was a good movie and far weirder than I expected it to be. Like you, I hope we get more like this.

  14. I just watched it and I’m sort of mulling over what I think, but I have two main theories, one of which is predicated on everything in the film being literal, and the other gives in to the idea that James was not of sound mind by the end.

    My first theory is that James was right about everything, but he was too brash in confronting Michael. Michael didn’t seem that much older than James, or Steve, and the way he mentioned his “dad” several times leads me to think that maybe Michael was one of those rich kids that Steve mentioned, and while Steve didn’t know any more about what was going on than his involvement in the signal hijacking, this could have been something orchestrated by the actual murderer, Michael’s father, by having him approach Steve at school. Whoever that person was, being described as the dad of a ‘rich kid’, could have been someone powerful enough to evade capture and pull strings where needed. If that was the case, I think the final moments of the film where Jame’s radio is hijacked, the actual perpetrator sent an “android” victim out in front of Jame’s car as a warning of what’s to come. It could have even been Alice under the mask, who disappeared earlier in the film without explanation. But that’s more speculative than the rest of my theory, she could have also just decided she didn’t want to be involved anymore. This interpretation is very “True Detective season one” in my mind.

    My other theory is that James went off the deep end looking for answers where there were none. All of the disappearances were coincidental, the videos were the work of some kids trying to pull a prank, and their dates just happened to line up. Hellbent on finding answers for something he might have already been suppressing the knowledge of, James might have hunted down and killed Michael for no real reason. Essentially the ending described in the article.

    Anyways I loved the movie, and I wish there were more movies based on weird internet horror and creepypasta stuff like this.

  15. Thanks for your comment! You made some really interesting points about James and the meaning of the ending and it might be that you’re correct in what you’re saying. The movie was a bit of a puzzle box for us and James and is certainly worth a rewatch to try to gain more understanding about it.

  16. I really enjoyed the unsettling tapes, 90’s atmosphere, and indie DIY detective feel of Signal Broadcast Intrusion! I feel like there’s an undercurrent of overwhelming grief throughout the film, and Shum Jr. portrayed this well in cycling between James’ nightmares, paranoia, drunkeness, obsession and mood swings. In my mind, I believe his wife may have commited suicide since the grief support group member’s stories seemed to hint that they were trying to heal from losing a loved one this way. I think one of the group members mentiond living in a sort of dream like state, a kind of dissociation from the real world, and it feels like that’s what James may be going through. He even mentions that he doesn’t remember how long its been since he began his rabbit hole of a journey into finding the origin of the tapes.

    However, since he is going through so much, I’m not sure if any of the people he interacts with during his search for the truth are real or
    just projections of his broken state of mind. If Alice isn’t real, then maybe that means anyone she saw/interacted with didn’t exist either (storage owner, phreaker, paranoid guy in alley). If these people do exist, then what role do they play in James’ grieving process? Lastly, I feel like the ending may have been a chance for James to snap back into reality, but we find that he’s too far gone to even comprehend a tragedy like hitting somone with his car (which has happened to me, by the way, it freaking suuuucks lol).

    I love that the movie is pretty open ended with no real indication on whether our main character has a reliable point of view. Great watch overall and it gave me the creeps! 8/10!

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