2021 SXSW FF Midnighter Reviews: ‘Broadcast Signal Intrusion’ and ‘The Feast’
Midnighter World Premiere films, Broadcast Signal Intrusion and Feast represent the SXSW 2021 genre in their creepiness and slow build to an edgy, shocking ending. Broadcast Signal Intrusion keeps one steeped in mystery throughout to present the reveal in the last ten minutes. Feast burns slowing giving substantial clues throughout about the protagonist who speaks sparingly and surreptitiously “carries a big stick.”
Broadcast Signal Intrusion directed by Jacob Gentry, written by Phil Drinkwater and Tim Woodall gives a nod and a bow to analogue tapes. Taking place in late 90s, the foreboding story takes place in the late 1990s at a turning point in media. A lonely video archivist, James (Harry Shum, Jr.) unwittingly discovers two macabre broadcast interruptions while viewing old programs. Alone and internalized after his wife’s disappearance, James becomes obsessed with uncovering the sinister conspiracy behind them.
With an intentional minimum of specificity, Gentry brings James’ journey to completion effectively. By slowly unspooling the information, we remain enthralled and attentive. Picking up clues and tidbits from unusual sources James ties in the pieces and relates them to a missing third tape. Lighting, cinematography, music, sound design and editing stir the foreboding and audience jumpiness. Though the guessing game continues throughout, the story aligns with James overarching fixations. To what extent does the circumstance of his wife’s going missing relate to these weird momentary broadcasts? Additionally, to what extent have the signals been tailored to his nature and bedevilment to find her?
Others assist James’ search (Alice portrayed by Kelley Mack). And they provide interest in a random, happenstance way. When James unearths what yields the payoff to his quest, the climax incites. Yet, Gentry leaves the viewer wondering about the last event and James’ journey. There’s always one more road to cross and tape to view.
Less mysterious and centrally horrific, The Feast settles into a conflagration as screenwriter Roger Williams exposes the protagonist Cadi’s intentions. Directed by Lee Haven Jones, the music, cinematography, editing plumb the depths of atmospheric. And horror edges into a conclusion that satisfies with the gruesome.
Shot in the Welsh Language with subtitles, the atmosphere and eerie, hypnotic portrayal of Cadi (Annes Elwy) intrigues. As the character evolves, her placement as server of the feast twists into a generating, supernatural force. Thematically, The Feast offers a sumptuous if terrifying meal for the eyes, ears and soul.
Ironically, Glenda (Nia Roberts) the matriarch of the elite, materially well-off family, who hires the demure Cadi suspects nothing about who she is. This family of four lives in blindness and worships craven, empty values of modern success. Obviously, by sacrificing their farm to mining, they’ve eschewed the old wisdom which aligns people’s souls to venerating sacred nature.
Consumed by greed for power and money, Glenda holds the lavish 8-course dinner for her farming neighbors. Exploiting her land, she and MP husband Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones) hope to persuade their guests to do the same. Ready with future contracts to seal the deal, Euros (Rhodri Meilir) attends the high-stakes dinner. Most probably, Euros, Glenda and Gwyn arrange kick backs when the neighbors cede their land to fossil fuels to “make a killing.”
Evocative evidence of the land’s meaning, withheld until the end figures into Cadi’s behavior and ethos. Glenda’s seemingly luxuriant house remains a weird eyesore of misplaced, sterile architecture in a lush nearby forested setting. Interestingly, the exterior and interior clue the viewer in to the crass debasement of the MP and his family. Symbols abound subtly, like strange pieces in an ill-formed puzzle. And Williams and the director characterize the family as hyper ambitious and corrupt, especially the two sons. Dislocated, self-consumed, unattached to the land, one prepares for a triathlon. Sensitively, the other son appears to reject his parents, a cover. In her interactions with him, Cadi reveals his drug addiction.
The Feast, dramatic, paranormal and horrific in its own right compels until the end. Though its genre differs from Broadcast Signal Intrusion, both films find appropriate synchronicity in the Midnighters category. Look for them on digital platforms soon.