2020 Film Review: The Vast of Night
Plot Synopsis: In the 1950s, two young adults search for the source of a mysterious frequency that has descended on their town.
Small in scale and in budget, 'The Vast of Night' takes us back to the old small-town setting of 1950's America for a simplistic yet intriguing sci-fi tale. Self-financed by director-writer Andrew Patterson for less than $1 million through his work on many projects, including shorts and adverts for NBA basketball team Oklahoma City Thunder, Patterson's lowish budget meant his focus would need to gear toward the more simplistic rather than the explosive and spectacular. For some, a sci-fi film doing this will immediately turn people away but within the first fifteen minutes, the film does a spectacular job at setting up its two lead characters and showcasing this tale will be much more intimate.
The beginning introduces us to Everett (Jake Horowitz) and Fay (Sierra McCormick) and brilliantly sets up the dynamic of the duo. Fay is a plucky teen who is fascinated by the advancements in technology with a clear desire to learn more and more despite her limitations in this small town. She looks up to Everett as some kind of a mentor, looking to him for advice on all sorts from interviewing techniques to static problems. Everett is a lot wittier with the older character being a lot more discontent with his surroundings and hopes of his own to progress onward. The two have similarities in interests which creates an interesting depiction of a student/mentor role between them. Early scenes showcase the duo's chemistry and two fantastic performances as Horowitz and McCormick are given long scenes of just the pair talking. With two weaker performances, this film would completely crumble, as the film relies on their personality to hold the viewer's engagement and add to the setting of the film. There's a particular scene involving McCormick and the use of an old-style telephone system where she is just connecting calls and piecing parts of the mystery together and it is an exceptional piece of acting. It's so simplistic but works incredibly well, building suspense perfectly in the early stages.
The performances go a very long way in the success of this film, with even a mysterious caller named Billy (Bruce Davis) providing a great performance off-screen. As previously mentioned, the film does feature a lot of scenes where it is just people having conversations and piecing things together, often in different locations. The nature of the proceedings isn't overly cinematic and the budget does reflect this, the lighting, for example, needing a bit of a boosting. Nonetheless, Patterson does manage to make the most out of his script and manages to create interesting ways to produce these scenes as well as transitions of time. With what he has at his disposal, Patterson shows a great eye for a shot, with a long mazy tracking shot the most noteworthy of them all. Being heavily influenced by 'The Twilight Zone', the film frames itself as an episode of a fictional TV show, with times the ongoing appearing through the likes of classic television sets and radio waves. With the themes and exploration of the film, to depict it as something watching these persons adds even more to the mystery and themes in a simple but very clever way.
Patterson's recreation of a small town in the States is perfect, with a high school gymnasium, classic cars and styles of buildings perfectly recreating a homely feeling. The attention to detail is flawless as the setting adds a form of nostalgia that feels warm and isn't overbearing in the slightest. Again, you have to marvel at the work down with the constraints of a budget, where every single setting is used perfectly and constructed so too.
This is a film that has been made passionately and intelligently, with a group of people all coming together to craft something that can propel them further. If 'The Vast of Night' is any indicator, there are bright futures ahead for the likes of Patterson and McCormick. A small budget hinders the film as it does start to run out of gas toward the end but there's enough within this 90-minute-film to provide a captivating viewing. Well helmed with some great performances, this is an easy watch and an indie gem that I highly recommend.
Final Rating: 4/5
'The Vast of Night' is available on Amazon Prime and is a 90-minute film that I highly recommend. There's much to enjoy with this one that is an easy watch. As usual, thanks so much for reading my review, it is much appreciated and I hope you enjoyed the read. Make sure to come back soon for more reviews, both old and new. Once again, thank you very much and continue to stay safe!