The Vast of Night

vast_of_night_ver2STARS3The camera slowly enters a black and white TV set.  We overhear a familiar-sounding narration and are presented with opening titles that recall Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone.  The narrative gradually morphs into color.  It mostly stays this way, but every so often it turns black and white again as an affectionate reminder of the homage.  Director Andrew Patterson retro ode recreates a 1950s mood that concerns a mysterious sound that bewilders two teens.  There’s switchboard operator Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) and the comparatively more worldly DJ Everett Sloan (Jake Horowitz) at local station WOTW.  The Vast of Night is set in the small town of Cayuga, New Mexico and it’s certainly an impeccably fashioned period piece.  The portrait has been lovingly put together.  Although I’m surprised no one associated with this production realized that call letters for radio stations west of the Mississippi begin with a ‘K’.

The Vast of Night has a beguiling approach.  All of the events take place after dark.  The initial dialogue is delivered at a breakneck pace and it can be hard to follow at first.  During the first 30 minutes, the meandering introduction felt especially unfocused.  Stick with it though because this is superfluous exposition.  The proper story doesn’t even begin until half an hour later when Fay hears a bizarre audio frequency coming through the electronic circuits.  She forwards the intonations to Everett who plays it on the air.  The strange humming noise is identified by a disabled veteran named Billy (Bruce Davis).  The phone caller conveys his experiences in an extended auditory sequence.  Later on, the duo travels to meet an elderly woman named Mabel Blanche (Gail Cronauer).  She too recounts her experiences with the same sonic vibrations in another static shot.  Her verbose monologue is a long-winded sequence that may test the patience of most viewers.

The Vast of Night is a gloomy drama built solely around an enigmatic reverberation.  Evidence suggests a conspiracy theory involving a military experiment.  Most of what makes this saga compelling is its commitment to a B movie atmosphere.  However — save for a few showy unbroken tracking shots — the assemblage is not particularly cinematic. The film is regrettably centered entirely around the recollections of two loquacious individuals: Billy and then Mabel. Their lengthy monologues would be perfect vignettes for a popular radio program. That is before TV became the dominant entertainment medium in the 1950s. The interludes are not the most visually captivating. Some have labeled this release science-fiction but honestly, this extremely low budget tale is more mystery than anything else. It isn’t until the final 10 minutes that the feature ultimately succumbs to a spectacle that deems it as sci-fi. It’s unquestionably a powerful ending to a protracted buildup but its effectiveness also serves to underscore another insight. It’s at that moment we the audience suspect the film’s lo-fi aesthetic was more due to a lack of finances than art.

05-29-20

8 Responses to “The Vast of Night”

  1. Apparently the WOTW is a nod to Welles’ War Of The Worlds. Pretty neat, huh?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That IS cool and the nod makes sense when you see the film. There are some discussions that are cleverly written too. I realize I’m kind of lukewarm on the film, but director Andrew Patterson is a smart guy. Curious what he does next.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Writing about it right now actually. I’m of a similar opinion. It was an interesting movie, the presentation is really impressive given the low budget, but I felt like the monologues were a bit draining. I didn’t also really understand those cuts to black either. All part of the style I suppose but that particular choice didn’t seem to add anything.

        Liked by 1 person

    • It was ok as maybe a film project. You had to rely a lot, on your imagination. 3 stars

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  2. I’m glad people are finally seeing this. It actually made my Top 10 last year. Really fell for it.

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    • I know it debuted at the Slamdance Film Festival in January 2019. 16 months is a very long time. Not sure why it didn’t get released last year.

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      • It is a long time. I was fortunate enough to get a screener last December but kept waiting for it to finally get an actual release.

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