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.