Director: Andrew Patterson
Starring: Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz
Review Author: Tony
For all the chest beating about cinema being the only authentic way to experience the art of film; it’s indie movies that have unfairly been labelled as pretentious. Streaming has become the go to platform for indie film in the last decade, allowing films that would usually find themselves lost among hectic cinema releases or over encumbered VOD services to find more suitable audiences. Ironic that streaming, the great villain of cinema, has persevered among these unprecedented times to deliver the art of film. Amazon Prime’s latest release, The Vast of Night, is a great example of how these micro-budget films can generate hype and find their audience.
One evening in a small town in America during the 50s, the community has gathered for a local highschool basketball game at the school arena. In the midst of the town gathering the local radio DJ, Everitt, strolls the streets alongside Faye, a young switchboard operator, as they trade niceties on their way to work. What starts as an average evening for Faye soon devolves into something more sinister as strange frequencies ring through, followed by concerning calls. Faye contacts Everitt, who interviews various callers and investigates these strange phenomenons as they soon realize that these events have happened before and their tiny town is ground zero.
Framing itself inside an episode of a faux Twilight Zone style show called ‘The Paradox Theater’, retro science fiction from the 50s and 60s is evidently a heavy inspiration. Other noticeable inspirations include Spielberg and Orson Welles’ infamous radio broadcast of War of the Worlds in 1938 (I expect the radio station’s name WOTW is no coincidence). The Vast of Night never tries to replicate these famous pieces of media but rather pay homage. The 1950s setting is wonderfully realized with time-accurate dialogue/slang (probably the most alien thing in the movie if you excuse the pun), fantastic costumes and realistic sets and props. It doesn’t cower away from time specific themes like Cold War paranoia, misogyny, and racism (which is unfortunately still a fucking issue in this day and age).
For a first-time director, Andrew Patterson shows a skill behind the camera far beyond his years. The opening sequence sets the tone as it introduces us to our characters and the town as the camera lags, allowing off-the-cuff conversations and quick exchanges to seem innocuous but also really build a sense of our protagonists. We get two impressive styles of cinematography as moments between pivotal sequences utilize this wandering camerawork that captures the geography of both the town and drama. Alternatively, during the pivotal scenes the camera is deathly still, both capturing every piece of conversation and our leads reactions. It’s within these long take heavy dialogue sequences where the action takes place, simple words carry a real sense of fear and mystery that had the hairs standing on the back of my neck.
The Vast of Night never tries to hold your hand or play to the average audience member with a brief attention span, instead it relies on robust characters and heavy dialogue to advance its narrative. Ignoring the show-don’t-tell approach to filmmaking, the dialogue conjures both thrills and chills through lengthy conversations that only raise more questions than answers. Indie film is rarely this confident, but Andrew Patterson’s talent behind the camera is a showcase for an exciting new director on the scene.
Rating: 4 / 5
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