Review: Eerie 'The Vast of Night' suffocates under heavy exposition
Courtesy of Amazon Prime
“The Vast of Night” starts like an old-school throwback to “The Twilight Zone” – opening on a slow zooming shot of a 1950s tube television, setting the stage for director Andrew Patterson’s first feature.
This is a story of transcending the human dimension and what exists beyond our galaxy, but the revelations aren’t that noteworthy and the trip to get there feels like a chore. “The Vast of Night” is all talk, literally, with the atmospheric tension doing little to overcome long expository monologues which struggle to hold their weight throughout the film's meager 85 minutes. Patterson showcases some real potential as a rising filmmaker, you just wish “The Vast of Night” had more going for it.
It’s surprising how “The Vast of Night” doesn’t land, considering the set-up is quite intriguing: the film focuses on a small New Mexico town in rural 1950s, where everyone and their dentist is about to attend the local basketball game, because, well, that’s just what you did (the only thing missing is the planning committee for the Sock Hop). Enter radio DJ, Everett (Jake Horowitz) and his switchboard operator companion Faye (Sierra McCormick), who have just heard a strange transmission over their speakers. When Faye hears it again, she enlists Everett to see if he can use his sources and investigate the abnormal sound. Over the course of the evening, the pair will interview various individuals with knowledge of the sound, and what they learn has the power to redefine our understanding of space and time.
Of course, the major twist that transpires won’t be a shock to anyone considering how desensitized we are to these cliches, but Patterson does try a different approach and though it didn’t work for this critic, it’s worth commending. He takes the time to focus on the tensions in this small town: Could this sound be the Soviets getting ready to invade? But alas, he chooses to leave the camera rolling for long stretches, allowing his actors to absorb the screen with their lengthy speeches, and it’s there where “The Vast of Night” loses momentum. Patterson is clearly using Orson Welles audio production of “War of the Worlds” as inspiration here with radio chatter and the irony is the film would most certainly work better in that medium.
At least the film is gorgeous to look at. M.I. Lettin-Menz stunning cinematography - capturing the essences of the 1950s - works in the films favor as opposed to the long monologues that turn the film into a real snooze, the more they ramble on.
“The Vast of Night” – despite alluding to its “Twilight Zone” aurora – never reaches that philosophical apex, but the technical elements are impressive on the small-scale budget of which this was produced. Horowitz and McCormick are a good match as the young sleuths driving around town searching for answers and Patterson shows promise as an early filmmaker. Whatever he does next, I’m certainly eager to see how it evolves from this project.
THE VAST OF NIGHT will be available on AMAZON PRIME VIDEO starting Friday May 29th.