The Vast of Night

 

starstarstarstarhalf

 


In 1950s’ New Mexico, a switchboard operator stumbles upon a sinister frequency in Andrew Patterson’s bold and inventive debut. 

 
Vast of Night

Sierra McCormick

 

The Vast of Night is not for everybody. Andrew Patterson’s debut feature tells the story of Fay and Everett, a pair of high schoolers in the small (fictional) town of Cayuga, New Mexico. Fay operates the town’s switchboard, and Everett mans the local radio station during the night shift. On the eve of the first basketball game of the season, the precocious tech-obsessed teenagers think they hear something eerie on-air, a sinister signal hidden amongst the radio waves. As they investigate, they threaten to uncover more than one unpleasant truth.

 

Made on a micro-budget, the sci-fi picture serves as an honest-to-goodness throwback to Rod Serling’s masterpiece The Twilight Zone. Set firmly in the 1950s, the production design effortlessly recreates the period authentically, and the talented cast brings it to life with authentic accents, speech patterns and mannerisms. The transformation is seamless, and it would be easy to mistakenly assume the film was transported here from decades past.

 

The camera work is excellent, too. Patterson uses long takes to great effect. Tracking shots follow the characters as they travel throughout their town, going to and from various places, allowing the audience to get a firm and palpable understanding of the actual distance between these locations. Very rarely does a film utilize the concept of space in such an effective way. There is also a truly sublime use of stillness. The camera will hold on characters for upwards of six minutes at a time as they perform tasks, speak monologues, or simply listen. These moments of listening allow the actors to truly shine, their facial micro-expressions providing a perfect example of the kind of subtle storytelling the medium does best.

 

Naturally, these factors lead to The Vast of Night having a slower pace. This might be a turn-off for some, but those with the taste for it will appreciate the compelling close-ups, training tracking shots and sparse use of flashy visuals and subtly driving score. As the tension slowly builds to the unforgettable climax, the obvious will become apparent; The Vast of Night marks the arrival of a bold and inventive filmmaker with a vision, and the craftsmanship needed to execute it.

 

CALEB JOHN CUSHING

 

Cast: Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz, Gail Cronauer, Bruce Davis, Cheyenne Barton, Mark Banik, Gregory Peyton, Adam Dietrich, Mallorie Rodak, Mollie Milligan, Ingrid Fease

 

Dir Andrew Patterson, Pro James Montague (aka Andrew Patterson), Melissa Kirkendall and Adam Dietrich, Screenplay James Montague and Craig W. Sanger, Ph M. I. Litten-Menz, Pro Des Adam Dietrich, Ed Junius Tully, Music Erick Alexander and Jared Bulmer, Costumes Jamie Reed.

 

GED Cinema-Amazon Media.

90 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 29 May 2020. Cert. 12.