The more I think about this movie, the more I like it. THE VAST OF NIGHT feels like a familiar sci-fi story: Smalltown USA, cold war 1950s vibe, sightings in the sky, mysterious radio signals, and two kids as the central characters….. plus, the whole thing takes place in one single night.
Apparently, this film was rejected by a bunch of film festivals before finding a spot with Amazon Studios. It was pretty remarkable to hear how first-time writer-director Andrew Patterson self-funded this film.
We have Everett (Jake Horowitz), a local teenage radio DJ who plans to get out of this small town and make it in LA, where big things are happening in radio. We have Fay (Sierra McCormick), a high schooler who works as a telephone switchboard operator. She has no concrete plans of leaving her small-town life and feels like she is stuck there with no college prospects.
The chemistry between Fay and Everett is excellent; there is this platonic thing going on that works great. Sierra McCormick is remarkable in all her scenes; she has this unique and subtle screen presence — there is this cool scene early in the film where Everett and Fay are walking together, discussing the technology of the future. I thought that was a well-executed scene.
Fay picks up a strange noise while working at the switchboard, which coincides with sudden blackouts that seem out of the norm for this town. Pretty soon, both Fay and Everett realize something strange and unexplained is happening.
There is a mysterious phone call to the radio station from Billy (Bruce Davis), a former member of the military. This caller has first-hand knowledge of those strange signals and alludes to having been part of a secret government project. He reveals that personnel chosen to work on those secret projects were all Black or Mexican to ensure nobody will take them seriously if they ever try to go public.
Then, we have Mabel (Gail Cronauer), an elderly lady who calls Fay and Everett and tells them that she also has knowledge of these strange signals and requests to meet with them in person at her home.
I admire how this movie was shot — there are many interesting, complex shots, long takes, and tracking shots that worked nicely. The cars, the clothes, and even the eyeglasses worn by the characters capture the vibe of the 50s beautifully. The whole Twilight Zone, Outer Limits mood, is skillfully done. Even the name of the radio station is pretty neat; WOTW …. (War of the Worlds?).
But what I found most refreshing was how there is this sociopolitical theme building slowly underneath the story. We have two white teens coming into contact with two black characters who have direct knowledge of this phenomenon, but nobody will take them seriously due to their social status.
True lovers of cinema will undoubtedly enjoy this movie. It is an excellent alternative from all those mainstream movies out there.
The Vast of Night is a perfect example of how low-budget, independent, self-funded films can be well made and find an eager audience. Aspiring filmmakers and screenwriters, such as myself, should pay close attention to this film.
Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿
THE VAST OF NIGHT (2019) Streaming on Prime