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The Vast of Night 2019 ****

Andrew Patterson’s first feature is a perfect fit for streaming, and specifically Amazon Prime; a low-budget but easily accessible sci-fi drama that keeps the scale small, but also has enough razzle-dazzle in the presentation to mark it as a must watch. UFO’s, secret signals, intrepid investigators, sure, we’ve been here before, but The Vast of Night plays as an extended Twilight Zone episode and will gain a cult following as well as main-steam audiences.

Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) fancies a career in radio, and works as a switchboard operator while dreaming of a career in mass communications. Her older friend Everett (Jake Horowitz) is doing a night-shift at a local radio station, and takes a call relating to a strange signal that he inadvertently intercepts. While Fay keeps tabs on the odd-goings on in their small town, where most residents are taking in a basketball game, Everett begins his own investigation of where the mysterious signal is coming from.

While The Vast of Night is a slow burn in terms of aliens and spaceships, the look of the film is never dull; an extended tracking shot with Everett and Fay as they leave the game behind is brilliantly executed, and should keep Patterson in work for decades. But the technical spec is secondary to good storytelling and characterisation; both Fay and Everett are well drawn and likeable, and their adventure is told with commendable brio.

The Vast of Night enjoyed a strong festival run in 2019, and that led to Amazon’s acquisition of the film; a success story for an indie, and one worth celebrating. The period trappings are ingenious, the tone is careful and restrained, and the result packs a punch; it’s refreshing to find a small film that hits such a big target.

Comments

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    • Quite so; it seems to bring the best out of some, and low-budget ingenuity has a certain magic to it.

  1. Thanks Tom; I’m late to the party on this one, but your comment is bang on; somehow low-key but with underlying excitement makes for an unusual but very entertaining diversion.

  2. Excellent review! I agree, I love how lowkey the production was but there was such a fun energy to it. Loved that moment when Fay and Everett meet up with two others and all are chatting excitedly, how the momentum builds in that moment. Such a subtle and wonderful movie

  3. I am a tough audience, I’ll admit. Part of that is what while I’m not a mood reader, I am definitely a mood watcher. Expectations have a lot to do with it too. I’ll gladly sit through 4-6hrs of a Jane Austen period piece, but I’m expecting it.

    • Yes, that’s why I stockpile films to watch, hoping to get just the right mood to review. Can be a drudge when you have to look at something you’re not in the mood for.

  4. You’re a tough audience, Lord Bookstooge, hard to nail down what might appeal to you in this genre if this isn’t to your taste. At least Amazon are promoting this as a new ‘thing’ unlike the many other titles which are buried. As I’d mentioned to Tales, there’s tonnes of films that never appear unless you actually search for the correct title. I guess that’s one of the reasons for reviewing in the first place, the interface for finding films is so bad.

  5. So I watched this today. I have to admit, I was completely underwhelmed. I don’t particularly care for the visuals or the slow burn or the period’ness of it. And the ending made me roll my eyes because I don’t remember dust being alluded to before, and it should have been. It felt very “well, let’s wrap this up with the most Twilight Zone’ish Vibe that we can”. Not bad in any way, but not to my taste at all.

    And I’m totally with Tales about trying to find stuff. It is no wonder nobody thinks they have anything as they seem to delight in only showcasing the top ten of something instead of showing a real variety. The “we recommend” in SF looks exactly the same as the “we recommend” in action/adventure. which is why I’ve been watching old tv shows so I have something long to get through.

  6. Brilliant review and thanks for the follow. I really enjoyed this film and it’s quite refreshing to get back to basics instead of relying on cgi to sell your movie. I would really like a collection of these films like The Twilight Zone.

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