The Vast of Night

Andrew Patterson's The Vast of Night evokes paranoid 50s B-movies but elevates the genre with stylish visuals and vibrant performances

Film Review by Rory Doherty | 27 Jun 2019
  • The Vast of Night
Film title: The Vast of Night
Director: Andrew Patterson
Starring: Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz, Gail Cronauer, Bruce Davis, Cheyenne Barton

Usually a film will attempt to disguise its influences, but with its Twilight Zone opening and framing scenes with a crackly 1950s television set, sci-fi mystery The Vast of Night relishes in the genre thrills of its predecessors, crafting a watch that’s equal parts charming and suspenseful.

When quippy radio host Everett (Jake Horowitz) and wide-eyed switchboard operator Fay (Sierra McCormick) pick up unusual transmissions one night, they delve into the supernatural mysteries clouding their sleepy New Mexico town. This may be B-movie material, but director Andrew Patterson and his cast and crew bring their A-game, doing away with flat cinematography and wooden performances. As Everett, Horowitz commands his scenes with endless charisma, pockmarking his conversations with clever asides. “You read the Bible, Sam?” he asks. “That has the answer to everything.” McCormick's Fay, meanwhile, has an earnestness that unfolds in tight angles as she struggles to comprehend the alien messages.

The leads’ chemistry and snappy dialogue builds in flowing shots that make it seem something is lingering off-screen in the night. The wide framing of the empty streets and ambient sound design is countered with the pair’s quick, charming chatter, which almost seems an act of defiance to the threatening isolation of their town.

At points, Patterson overindulges in his mysterious atmosphere, and the narrative has to rely on two weighty exposition drops to speed things up. Screenwriters James Montague and Craig W Sanger take care filling the speeches with tension, but they can’t help but feel both rushed and dragging.

At one moment Fay and Everett stand side-by-side holding Fay’s infant sibling, facing an intimidating threat. They appear a typical image of a 50s nuclear family, now confronting a stark realisation that the world they wish to conserve is mutable by greater powers. Atmospheric and arresting, The Vast of Night transcends its familiar narrative with vibrant performances and stylistic flair.

Not the End had its international premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival

Rory Doherty is a student at University of Glasgow and part of Edinburgh International Film Festival's Student Critics Programme. For more on EIFF's Student Critics Programme, click here

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