Initially premeiring at Slamdance Film Festival in 2019 and distributed on Amazon in 2020, this is essentially a made-for-TV movie episode of The Twilight Zone. Those aren’t negatives, it just wasn’t necessarily designed as a cinematic experience. Accepting that, The Vast of Night actually succeeds very well at what it’s trying to accomplish.
Set in a small town border town in New Mexico in the 1950s, a switchboard operator and a radio host stumble across a mysterious signal that sends them on a night of investigation and discovery.
Andrew Patterson wrote, directed, produced, and edited this project. Although, he used a pseudonym for some of those duties. His narrative style and storytelling approach don’t pretend to be anything other than an episode of The Twilight Zone, and it’s very sharply made that way. I could have done without the repeated tube TV framing, but I get the desire to establish it at the start of the movie. Patterson’s dialogue is well-written and well-guided to serve the story, but it gets a bit sleepy in the third act. It’s tense but often dark and quiet, so calling it a thriller might be a bit overzealous.
Sierra McCormick stole the show as the young switchboard operator and aspiring reporter, Faye Crocker. She brought a particular brand of curious energy to the performance which played well, considering there’s only one other main character. Jake Horowitz played the radio host, Everett Sloan, who’s willing to do anything in the name of good radio. And that includes chasing down potential aliens. He’s good in the role of the fast-talking mentor and the pair work really well together with very workable platonic chemistry.
I would have liked a bigger payoff in the end, but it’s a poetic resolution that fits the story at hand. Plus, the cinematography by Miguel I. Littin-Menz is very creative and the music by Erick Alexander and Jared Bulmer is a great addition to how this story was told. So, I can walk away having wanted more but also without being disappointed.
Recommendation: It’s well worth a watch for fans of The Twilight Zone and science fiction, but it’s also a highly functional period piece about a small town in the 1950s.