The Vast of Night is something we rarely see today. It’s a small, experimental, science fiction film, that’s well-paced, highly-focused on dialog and acting, and simply beautiful to experience.
The Vast of Night is set in the late 50s in New Mexico and follows a phone operator and a radio DJ that get interested in a strange audio frequency that leads them to investigate what’s happening and uncovers something much bigger and scarier than they expected.
The plot of this film is not earth-shaking by any measure, and for a science fiction film, it relies heavily on your own imagination instead of dazzling effects.
What this film has going for it is a combination of brilliant dialog and actors that are fully immersed in their roles.
Sierra McCormick is charming and easy to sympathize with as Fay Crocker, a 16-year-old phone operator. She delivers an innocence and small-town demeanor that seems almost as much science fiction as the movie’s own tale.
Jake Horowitz as Everett Sloan, is whip-smart, fast-talking, and acerbic. What Horowitz creates through the delivery of his lines is a totally believable and unique character that’s unlike any other character I’ve seen before.
While there are other good actors in this film, The Vast of Night is much like a stage play, with the focus on Fay and Everett. There’s a playful chemistry between the two of them and it’s a delight to watch unfold.
Besides some great acting by those two players, much credit needs to go to first-time Director/Writer/Editor/Producer Andrew Patterson. His IMDB profile just lists The Vast of Night.
Patterson is clearly a gifted actor director. You can also credit him with using the Twilight-Zone-inspired television opening, and subsequent moments, as a framing device, which both elevates the weirdness of the narrative and also functions to move things along nicely.
Patterson’s shot selection is particularly impressive for a first-time director. He opens with a couple of long shots that wind throughout a high school gym, and outside that gym, and involve blocking action and multiple actors to pull off. Later he does another long shot that takes you throughout the small town and is mesmerizing. At other times he holds long shots and lets the actors explore their space fully. Much of the magic in this film is due to his direction.
Given that he wrote, directed, and edited this movie, you can blame the pacing on Patterson as well. I’ll be honest with you — I appreciate a film that’s well-paced, that takes time to tell a story and let it evolve, build tension, and give the script and scenes time to breathe. This film does all of that and features a dreamy evolution that I really enjoyed. But I also totally recognize that some people, who are used to roller-coaster films and TikTok clips, will not be able to sit through this film at all and will find it really boring.
The cinematographer here is veteran M.I. Littin-Menz and much of the wonderfully lush, immersive, small-town ambiance can be credited to him. I love the heavily bluish color-grading on this film, and it supports that chimerical feeling throughout.
It’s no coincidence that The Vast of Night references The Twilight Zone so heavily. The easy-going charisma of the cast, the setting, the plot, and the resolution, could have easily been an episode of that series. In fact, that might be a good measuring stick to determine if you’ll enjoy this film. If you still find those old episodes interesting, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here.
The Vast of Night strikes me as the perfect Saturday afternoon movie to watch while you’re curled up on your couch with your favorite beverage. It’s not going to change your life, it’s not going to rattle you, and it’s not going to change your mood, one way or the other.
What The Vast of Night will do is entertain you for an hour and a half, and gently take you away to a soft, but weird, yesteryear, and leave you with some great dialog, wonderful acting, and a classic Twilight Zone ending.
The Vast of Night is an Amazon Original and available through Prime Video right now.