The Vast of Night (2020) Review

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The Vast of Night

Time: 89 Minutes
Cast:
Sierra McCormick as Fay Crocker
Jake Horowitz as Everett Sloan
Director: Andrew Patterson

In the 1950s, two children (Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz) search for the source of a mysterious frequency that has descended on their town.

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I heard a little bit about The Vast of Night from some film people, it’s a smaller indie sci-fi movie that was getting some attention. I checked it out myself and I am glad I saw it, it definitely deserves more attention.

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The Vast of Night is a sci-fi movie for sure, but it’s not large scale, instead it is viewing something paranormal through the eyes of high schoolers in an emptied out town. The story was rather predictable (i.e. I knew generally which direction it was going in) and it’s a simple story that we’ve all seen before. However it is aware of its own overall simplicity, and instead of going large and focusing on large special effects, it aims at being smarter instead. It is for sure a slow burn throughout, but I was intrigued throughout. The movie has a snappy script, which has an engrossing story with clever ideas. It’s almost entirely told through dialogue, and it makes sense considering the budget, but also works narratively. There are some long monologues, but I found them quite intriguing. The movie is firmly set in the 50s, and is drenched in genre nostalgia. Although I haven’t watched the Twilight Zone, it is clearly paying homage to that, and you can tell that the filmmaker really has a love and passion for the genre. The Vast of Night is roughly 90 minutes long and that was a reasonably good length for the movie, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

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There’s not a huge cast, but the actors involved in the movie did well. The two leads in Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz are quite good in their parts, and they carry this story effectively. Their confident, quickly paced performances are convincing and sell the entire premise of the film. Extra credit for the actors for being to deliver large amounts of dialogue, sometimes in very long takes.

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The direction is from Andrew Patterson, and it really was key to the movie’s success. It’s worth noting that the budget for this movie is $700,000, quite small. It’s pretty hard to fully realise your vision – especially with an ambitious sci-fi plot, but Patterson pulls it off. The Vast of Night is a confident debut and suggests that there are greater things to come from him. He really does capture things on a small budget and it really did work to the movie’s advantage. Instead of trying to be grand, the film builds its narrative upon itself impressively. The visual effects that are on screen are pretty good for what they were. The cinematography is great and really stands out quite a lot. I really like the look of the movie, there is added film grain, and a moody colour palette that both sets the mysterious tone as well as invoking the era of the 50s. The use of long takes are particularly impressive, especially when the camera moves from one place to another far away place. Large portions of the story are told through long, static takes where the camera sits and there’s very few cuts while the subject talks. There’s even one scene with Sierra McCormick’s character where she’s operating on a switchboard and transferring calls, and it sticks with that one ongoing shot for a very long time, and it’s riveting. There are aspects with the colour grading and lighting which could be improved, though I have a feeling that it comes as a result of the budget. The nostalgia is on full display here, the movie itself starts with a slow push into a television set, with a theme song reminiscent of the Twilight Zone theme, and pays homage to many of the great paranormal sci-fi films and TV.

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The Vast of Night is a really good movie and quite a pleasant surprise. It is simple and doesn’t break new ground but its nonetheless impressive. The acting is good, it’s intriguing throughout and the direction is solid and benefitted from its indie and low budget approach. I’m interested to see what Andrew Patterson does next. Definitely watch it when you get a chance to, it’s worth a look.

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