The Vast of Night Review: It is out of this world
The Vast of Night is a captivating sci-fi thriller that’s elevated by its rich script, stunning cinematography. And incredibly charming leads.
The Twilight Zone has impacted the science fiction genre in a monumental way ever since its debut in 1959. Rod Serling’s memorable introduction before each episode served as a constant reminder to viewers that the imagination is limitless. It helped elevate the genre and open it up to a whole new world of possibilities. Since then, a number of movies and TV shows have mimicked The Twilight Zone’s formula, and the series has even gotten its own reboot recently from horror mastermind Jordan Peele. Andrew Patterson’s directorial debut pays homage to Serling’s wildly popular series while simultaneously creating a wonderful story that’s truly impressive in its execution. The Vast of Night is a captivating sci-fi thriller that’s elevated by its rich script. Stunning cinematography, and incredibly charming leads.
Framed as an episode of a TV series called Paradox Theatre. An obvious yet cheeky nod to The Twilight Zone – The Vast of Night kicks off its story by explaining that not all is as it seems in the small town of Cayuga, New Mexico. On the night of a major high school basketball game, savvy switchboard operator Fay (Sierra McCormick) and her close friend, a charismatic radio DJ named Everett (Jake Horowitz), pick up an ominous and unexplainable noise over the airwaves. Determined to figure out what the source of this sound is. Everett decides to play it over the radio to the few listeners he has that aren’t at the game.
And much to his surprise, he receives a call. The caller, a man named Billy (Bruce Davis), provides Everett and Fay with as many details as he can about this strange sound and where it could be coming from. Unfortunately, Billy’s call gets mysteriously cut off, leaving an abundance of suspense lingering in the air of the booth as Fay and Everett scramble to reconnect him. The two plucky teens then become determined to uncover the mystery behind who is making this noise. And why it’s suddenly made its way into their small, uneventful town.
As a viewer, it’s easy to pick up on what Fay and Everett are hearing over the airwaves. As Patterson doesn’t shy away from the fact that it’s aliens. However, it’s the journey from start to finish that’s truly an astounding, well-executed adventure. From the very beginning, M.I. Littin-Menz’s cinematography treats viewers to plenty of long takes that let them soak in the scenery, time period, and the characters at its forefront. In regard to the latter, McCormick and Horowitz have palpable chemistry right off the bat. Both actors fill the shoes of their respective roles effortlessly.
Littin-Menz’s lingering lens also allows viewers to watch their connection blossom in a very natural fashion. Their banter is witty and quick for a large portion of the story. While still having periods of prolonged silence sprinkled throughout to let moments of importance really sink in. This is all a testament to James Montague and Craig W. Sanger’s rich script, which feels true to the film’s 1950s setting while creating instantly lovable characters and an equally investing story.
In addition to the lively, well-written dialogue. Littin-Menz’s camerawork speaks volumes on its own as well. His tracking shots and well-framed close-ups offer plenty of incredible visuals that are sure to be every cinephile’s visual dream come true. Each shot manages to be both beautiful and haunting, capturing the emptiness of this small town while simultaneously filling up the leftover space with these character’s vibrant personalities and curiosity of what lies beyond. Even the score, composed by Erick Alexander and Jared Bulmer, relishes in that same feeling of exploration and expansiveness. The Vast of Night may be sets in a small town. But it’s bursting at the seams with thrilling originality.
The Vast of Night is a movie that thrives on sci-fi’s simple roots. Despite using a very familiar trope, Patterson finds exciting new ways to capture the wonder and awe of the unexplainable. McCormick and Horowitz’s performances are easily the cherry on top of this incredible production as well, capturing viewer’s attention right from the onset and maintaining a steady grip up until the film’s final moments. It may be a quick watch. But The Vast of Night fills every second of its runtime with delightful characters, impressive visuals. And a gripping story, making it an unforgettable debut. Patterson is certainly a creative filmmaking force to be reckon with. And it’ll be exciting to see what project he has up his sleeve next.
The Vast of Night releases May 29th on Amazon Prime Video. It’s 89 minutes long and rated PG-13 for brief strong language.