The Vast of Night is very much my kind of film, part Twilight Zone, part early Spielberg, there’s a vibe to this film that I just totally dig. A lot of the film feels like an homage to old dramas, encouraging the theatre of the mind, but there is a nice payoff at the end of the film for those incapable of using their imagination.
Having said that, this is very much a film that one has to buy into, you have to buy into the characters and the stories they tell, that’s where the creep factor comes from in the tale, and if you’re looking for whiz-bang effects and Michael Bay editing this is not the film for you.
It’s the 1950s, in the small New Mexico town of Cayuga, and a local radio host, Everett (Jake Horowitz) and a switchboard operator, Fay (Sierra McCormick) find them caught up in a mystery that is going to shake them to their core.
While most of the town is at the local high school basketball game, Everett is hosting his show, and Fay is hard at work, after learning how to work her new tape recorder. When she begins receiving calls with strange noises, or the callers being cut off, her curiosity his piqued, and her fear tweaked.
Reaching out to Everett the pair soon begin to hear stories of something in the sky, and that’s just the beginning as the night leads them to a strange shut in (Gail Cronauer) who may have some of the answers, if they are prepared to believe.
The script by the film’s director and Craig W. Sanger, is very aware of the influences that shaped it, and the little transitions to black and white television shots, or shots of a radio that fade to black so you are just left with a voice, just play with the sense of nostalgia, and pay homage to things like the Zone, Outer Limits, and Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of War of the Worlds (WOTW is Everett’s radio station’s call numbers).
It’s layered, smartly crafted, doesn’t tip it’s hand too early, and builds a sense of tension that could break over into fear, or simply wonder, and the viewer is left to ponder the meaning of the last shot is it hopeful, or fear-inspiring.
If you take the film in context of it’s b-movie origins, and the fact that the Cold War was warming up at the time, it’s a little fear-mongering, but seen through the hindsight, perhaps it’s hopeful, and there is something more…
From the rapid-fire patter of dialogue that opens the film, to its soundscape, to its final reveal and last shot, I was truly engaged with this film. And honestly, I want to watch it again, but with headphones on and just soak up all the sound.
It’s a greatly enjoyable film, that asks the viewer to invest, and not simply sit back and be spoon fed. I’ll be interested to see what Patterson and Sanger do next.