REVIEW: ‘The Vast of Night’ is a stirring film about radio worth tuning in for

Late night talk radio about UFOs is always a good time, so much so that the late host Art Bell made a career out of it with his show “Coast to Coast AM.”

That concept can now be enjoyed in movie form, too, thanks to this enjoyable indie thriller.

“The Vast of Night” takes place in a small New Mexico town in the 1950s and centers on two characters. One is Fay (Sierra McCormick), a switchboard phone operator, and the other is Everett (Jake Horowitz), a radio station DJ. Both teens are working the night of a big basketball game, so the town is rather quiet. As she’s connecting phone lines, though, Fay hears a frantic caller, and later a strange sound coming through the system.

She forwards the information on to Everett, who plays the odd sound over the radio. Not long after, Everett gets a call from a man who shares his story about working in the military and seeing a UFO during his service over the radio. The two soon learn that people who didn’t go to the game are now reporting things in the sky, too, and they decide to investigate.

This is a really fun throwback thriller, very much in the style of “The Twilight Zone.” The movie provides consistent suspense and an eerie mood. Plus, the mystery of what’s going on is unraveled at a very nice pace, resulting in an engaging feature that has a viewer wanting more.

The picture isn’t flawless, though. This movie is reminiscent of “The Twilight Zone,” “The Outer Limits,” and other, similar shows. But, it actually takes this too far.

The movie sets itself up with a framing device, where  the film starts by zooming in on an old television set that’s playing a show called “Paradox Theatre,” with “The Vast of Night” being the latest episode. The problem with this framing device is it doesn’t really add anything to the motion picture as a whole, other than being a homage to the anthology series.

The movie is still reminiscent of these types of programs, so it wasn’t necessary to include this framing device. Plus, it kind of takes a viewer out of the experience. To an extent, an audience can be sort of snapped from the suspense in the sense that the characters on screen are just actors in this show.

It’s especially telling in some of the moments where the film transitions to the next scene, and the picture becomes a grainy black and white.

VastofNightBlog
Courtesy GED Cinema and Amazon Studios.

There’s also some other odd visual choices. For example, when the caller talks to Everett over the radio, the screen fades to black and stays that way for some time. I get that the man’s story is very compelling, but I still feel this scene could have used some visual aids.

For example, it could have maybe used black and white military stock footage, similar to what was done in Oliver Stone’s “JFK” when Donald Sutherland’s character is explaining the conspiracy to the main character. The lighting was also a bit rough at times.

These complaints don’t drag the whole movie, down, though, especially not in the visual department. The film’s cinematographer Miguel Loann Littin Menz does good work, especially in creating some memorable, long tracking shots.

Andrew Patterson, who directed the movie and assisted in writing, deserves credit too, especially considering this is his first feature film. While the picture’s finale could have been tighter and even expanded on a bit, as a whole, it’s put together fairly well.

The actors do a solid job, too. Horowitz convincingly plays a more skeptical character who views the goings on more as something related to the Red Scare. McCormick, meanwhile, nicely portrays a person who instantly realizes something paranormal is going on and is in fear of the situation.

When it comes to McCormick’s character, though, there is one aspect where she seems to react by taking off running a few times and it becomes somewhat jarring.

All things considered, this is a nicely done, low-budget sci-fi flick sure to please fans of the genre and those who just want to see something a bit different. It’s a more quiet film than your average alien/UFO feature, but that works to its charm. It has some issues, but it’s still very watchable. 3.25. out of 5.

 

Author: Matthew Liedke

I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, and I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2009 graduate of Rainy River College and a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University in Moorhead. At MSU, I studied journalism and film. Outside of movies, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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