The Vast of Night Movie Review
The Vast of Night, the new UFO thriller from first-time director Andrew Patterson, hits all the right frequencies--solid acting, an intriguing story, and a compelling score--but that doesn’t mean it’s worth recommending.
Patterson’s quaint film, set in a small town in the 1950s, follows a teenage switchboard operator and her nighttime radio host pal, as they investigate odd sounds and chilling stories from callers, leading them to believe that aliens (or something) are in the neighborhood.
Coated in a sepia glaze and brimming with sets and pieces that seem extracted from an airtight locker, The Vast of Night feels like you stumbled across an old postcard, slightly oxygenated but otherwise kept in prime condition. Coupled with entrancing if slightly excessive cinematography by M.I. Littin-Menz, the movie carries a vintage aesthetic while expressing modern energy.
Only 89 minutes long and with a plot that primarily revolves around people calling into the radio and flashing lights, the movie is an example of what you can do with what is presumably a small budget. But it’s also a film that deserves more respect than attention, as it suffers from two problematic aspects: it’s a thriller that isn’t very thrilling, and has a light payoff that makes you question whether any of it was worth it in the first place.
Both Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz deliver fine performances; both seem torn straight from the 50s, youthful exuberance and imagination spouting from every pore as they hurtle forward into the unknown, never stopping to question whether they should. Their characters are also sort of obnoxious, though “hard to relate to” may be a better way of putting it. These aren’t exactly people I’d want to hang out with, nor care about their adventures.
The story itself, while well conceived, isn’t exactly the most exciting. It takes a long time to get going--at least 45 minutes before things kick into gear. From then, Patterson ramps things up, but never manages to achieve the level of intensity or paranoia he hopefully was shooting for. Boring isn’t the right word, but shrugworthy, a word my computer repeatedly tells me isn’t a word but one I’ll use anyway, is close to the truth.
Even worse, the payoff simply isn’t there. Maybe 60 years ago the climax would have worked, but the filmmakers seemingly lost sight of the fact that despite the look and tone of this 50s thriller, they were making a movie for modern audiences who have already seen it all and expect more than what we get.
The Vast of Night is a respectable movie--solid acting, an intriguing premise, and most importantly a clearly defined vision--but lacking suspense or satisfying resolution, there isn’t enough here to recommend.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.