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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Review: The Vast Of Night

Director: Andrew Patterson
Screenplay: James Montague and Craig E. Sanger
Year: 2020

In the vein of classic alien invasion science fiction movies such as “The War of the Worlds”, “The Vast of Night” marks the impressive debut of director Andrew Patterson, a name that will give much to talk about in the next few years. This homage to science fiction cinema shows all that can be achieved with a tight budget if there is enough talent and clear ideas working cohesively. The product is a movie that makes work all that should have failed and makes intriguing all that should have been boring. 

During the ‘50s, Fay works as a switchboard operator when one night she hears a strange sound. Filled with curiosity for discovering the origin of this sound she contacts Everett, a radio DJ who transmits the sound in his radio show with the idea that a listener might recognize the sound and can help them identify it. Fay and Everett spend the night looking into information that puts them closer and closer to discover the meaning of the sound.

“The Vast of Night” starts like an episode of a television series from the ‘50s called the Paradox Theater which undoubtedly is a tribute to “The Twilight Zone”. With a nice camera trick, we literally get inside the story through an antique television set and we reach the town of Cayuga, New Mexico, which name is another nod to “The Twilight Zone”. In the initial scenes, Patterson puts on display his talent behind the camera with long scenes with plenty of movement and dialogues that invite us to think about the work of the cast and the choreography needed to make it work. 

After visiting a school that is hosting an important basketball game, the camera continues its impressive trajectory until settling inside the small office where Fay (Sierra McCormick; “VFW”) works, where all the camera movement is left behind and a static take is preferred. Again long shots with an exquisite composition are used and the argument of the plot, as well as the tone of the movie is set, and they become a constant throughout the whole movie as we see the different interviews that Fay as well as Everett, the DJ from the local radio station WOTW (another homage to “The War of the Worlds”) conduct to different people in person as well as through the telephone. 

In this type of long duration scenes focused on just one character the acting is key, and this is one of the reasons this movie works so well. The small cast starring Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz does a phenomenal job and makes these scenes be effective, even those that are based on a phone call, in which just by hearing a voice you can clearly imagine all that the person is saying. Another important part of making these scenes work is how well done the dialogues are in the script of James Montague and Craig E. Sanger, both debuting as writers, and exposing all that they can do with a script, in this case, a full challenge as it consists almost entirely of dialogues and this puts it in a fine line of being intriguing or boring. 

“The Vast of Night” is the impressive debut of Andrew Patterson as a director and of James Montague and Craig E. Sanger as writers and it puts them straight into the lists of talents to follow in fiction cinema. This homage to classic alien movies such as “War of the Words” and shows like “The Twilight Zone” is overflowing with creativity and talent in the visual aspect, with long shots, many camera tricks, and spectacular sound editing, that is accompanied by a polished script that, although dialogue-heavy, it manages to be intriguing for the most part. Fans of atmospheric and slow-burn science fiction movies will certainly enjoy this excellent piece, but those looking for something with action might find it a bit dry.

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