Amazon’s ‘The Vast of Night’ Is a Hypnotic Sci-Fi Throwback 2020

The Vast of Night

Release date: May 29 The Vast of Night

Cast: Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz, Gail Cronauer, Bruce Davis The Vast of Night

Director: Andrew Patterson The Vast of Night

Why it’s great: This low-budget debut feature is a UFO movie that takes time to achieve lift off. In addition to saddling the story with a mostly unnecessary framing device, which underlines the already obvious echoes of The Twilight Zone, director Andrew Patterson and the film’s writers open the 1950s New Mexico-set story with a handful of overly precious exchanges featuring the two main characters, chatty DJ Everett (Horowitz) and young switchboard operator Fay (McCormick).

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In the beginning, these two might get on your nerves. But once the movie locks them in place, tampering down the acrobatic camerawork and letting the sound design take control, the material finds a more natural rhythm, drawing on the hushed intimacy of old-fashioned radio drama. Like many of the best UFO yarns, The Vast of Night taps into a deep sense of yearning. Wanting to believe is half the battle. The Vast of Night

It was a night like any other. The time: a summer evening in the late 1950s. The place: the American Southwest, where a high school basketball team is about to play against its rivals, and where two students, a radio host and a local switchboard operator discover that things traveling along the radio waves may not be all that they seem. The Vast of Night, the debut film from Andrew Patterson that charmed festival audiences last year, makes its debut on Amazon Prime this weekend and it’s a thoroughly immersive time capsule that recreates an era when the space above our heads contained multitudes, rascally Soviets could be hiding around any corner, and the nighttime was full of terrifying possibility. The Vast of Night

The Vast of Night

On a hot summer night in the small town of Cayuga, New Mexico, high school student Fay (Sierra McCormick), a switchboard operator working the night shift, and her friend Everett (Jake Horowitz), a motormouthed, bespectacled evening radio host, prepare themselves for a long few hours while everyone else in town is crammed into the high school gym attending a basketball game. When a mysterious noise over the airwaves interrupts Everett’s broadcast, Fay uses her equipment to record it, send it to him, and have him play it over the radio, asking if any listeners had ever heard a sound like that.

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It’s not long before a faceless caller, who gives his name only as Billy (Bruce Davis), claims he heard the sound while he was a soldier in the army, and he and a group of other soldiers were drafted into hiding something that seemed not of this world.The movie is styled like a Twilight Zone episode — it even begins with a mocked-up intro to a fake television show called “Paradox Theatre” — and ends with an ending so chillingly ambiguous that you expect Rod Serling to stroll smirkingly onscreen at any moment. It seems almost like fate that it would be one of the first movies played in drive-in theaters while brick-and mortar cineplexes were closed down for quarantine. It’s nostalgic throwback entertainment done right, taking a classic format and playfully transforming it into something all its own. The only overt reference to anything we may recognize is the radio station, whose initials WOTW evoke the title of an H.G. Wells classic. The Vast of Night

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