The Vast of Night
by George Wolf
The Vast of Night wastes no time in transporting you to another world.
Opening with vintage Rod Serling welcoming us to “Paradox Theatre,” director Andrew Patterson unveils an incredibly polished debut, one that’s full of meticulous craftsmanship, effective pacing and wonderfully engaging storytelling.
Picture the small town of Cayuga, New Mexico in the 1950s. As the gymnasium stands are filling up for the night’s big high school basketball matchup, a smooth-talking radio DJ and a wholesome teen have stumbled onto something very, very big.
Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) is filling in for the local telephone operator as WOTW’s nighttime show with Everett “The Maverick” Sloan (Jake Horowitz) playing in the background. But a strange transmission is also coming through the radio, and Fay lets Everett know about it.
Everett opens the mic to ask if any of his “five listeners” can identify the sound, and Billy (Bruce Davis) calls in with a mighty big story to tell. Mabel (Gail Cronaur) has one, too, leading Everett and Fay off into the New Mexico night to search for answers.
Peterson’s commitment to production and sound design results in a totally immersive experience. The period details – from costumes to recording equipment – are more than just historically correct. Paired with the rapid-fire, comfortably lived-in dialog from screenwriters James Montague and Craig W. Sanger, they create a throwback setting that charms without the tell of undue effort.
Peterson also flexes confidently behind the camera, moving from extended tracks to slow pans to quiet stills, all in service of the film’s wondrous tone. With McCormick and Horowitz leading a stellar ensemble, what could have been a generic sci-fi time filler becomes a smart parable with an eerie grip.
The Vast of Night is a film about listening. To each other, to the stars, to the ugly secrets of our past and to the great possibilities of our future.
And speaking of the future, Andrew Patterson has a bright one.