Jungle
The Vast of Night

The Vast of Night

Movie
Studio(s): 
Director(s): 
Genre: 
Release Date: 
Friday, May 29, 2020
Grade:
B+
Running Time: 
89 minuntes

Amazon’s The Vast of Night is a tribute to the classic sci-fi era of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and is vaguely reminiscent of Orson Welles’ The War of the Worlds radio drama. The entire film is framed as an episode of Paradox Theater, a Twilight Zone-esque anthology series, and viewed through an old black-and-white tube television set. Marking a strong directorial debut for Andrew Patterson, the film is a lovely addition to the science fiction genre that relies on its storytelling and your own imagination more than any fancy special effects.

 

Set in the 1950s in the small town of Cayuga, New Mexico, friends Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) and Everett (Jake Horowitz) are settling in to work their jobs as a switchboard operator and radio DJ during that evening’s local high school basketball game. Something strange begins to develop when Fay hears a mysterious noise coming across her switchboard. She goes to Everett for help since he knows all about electronics, and the two soon find themselves looking up to the sky for answers.

 

The Vast of Night works best because of its simplicity and its ability to entice you with its script. The majority of the film is dialogue as you hear these characters tell their stories. Everett is the heart and soul of the film with his boisterous and smooth talking persona that’s perfect for radio. The opening scene as he makes his way through the school’s gym before the basketball game shows how everyone is vying for his attention and how he has an answer to just about everything. He’s a captivating guy and Jake Horowitz plays him perfectly as you’re always eager to hear whatever he says next. 

 

It works well too because the majority of the film is listening to people tell Everett their stories. When they have no idea what the sound is, he reaches out on the radio to see if anyone else has heard it before, prompting someone to call in and talk about their experience. Like a good radio show straight out of the era, the film relies solely on the person telling their story. There’s not much to look at as the camera remains stationary most of the time, focusing on Everett, Fay, or someone else who might be talking. Instead, it’s your own mind that is doing all the visualizing as the words flow through the speakers. In a way, you’re creating your own scenes out of the film’s dialogue. It can be pretty tense too as you try to visualize some of the mysterious things these characters are describing.

 

There are some strange stylistic choices that Patterson uses that don’t seem to make much sense, however. There are moments where the film will pull back and play through the tube TV in black-and-white seemingly reminding you that you’re watching a story within a story. There are also points where it’ll simply cut to black while the dialogue continues uninterrupted. These things seem to happen randomly and without any meaningful purpose. The first time it went to black I honestly thought something was wrong with the stream I was watching. The gimmicks aren’t enough to ruin the film, but they can be distracting.

 

In the end, The Vast of Night takes audiences on an intense and captivating tale full of mystery and intrigue while paying homage to the great sci-fi stories that came before it. The film relies on its interesting characters and stories, rather than overly done visual effects. Forget about seeing is believing because this time around all you need to do is listen.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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