The Vast of Night (2020)
Director: Andrew Patterson
Writers: James Montague and Adam Dietrich
Starring: Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz
Plot: A teenage girl and a radio DJ investigate a weird wavelength that’s come over their small town.
Review: The Vast of Night is one of the few movies that actually got lucky during the COVID-19 situation. Movies like Black Widow and Mulan fled theaters for the time being, which allowed smaller, independent movies to take their spots in the few theaters that remained open. Like, I don’t know… Maybe a self-financed, grounded science fiction movie with no big names attached from a first time director. Yeah, The Vast of Night is being talked about way more often than it usually would be. But, is it good? Yes. Yes, it is.
The main factor this movie has going for it is Andrew Patterson. He paid for this movie himself. He wrote it. And, he’s the director. That’s already quite the achievement. For it to be as good as it is, that’s on a whole different level. He’s quite the director. There’s an extremely long tracking shot that is maybe one of the most impressive I’ve seen. The camera takes us on more or less a tour of the entire town, including through a high school gymnasium where a basketball game is currently taking place. And, even though it’s obviously not one shot, the way everything is pieced together makes it flow so well it definitely feels like it is. Plus, I love the framing device of this movie. We start off zoomed in on a tv set like we’re watching an old episode of a Twilight Zone knockoff. Then, it pans in and becomes our reality. Though, it still occasionally will go back to black and white like we’re just coming back from commercial. I think that was a really cool idea. But, Patterson didn’t feel the need to constantly show off either. He’d let the story stand on its own when necessary. There are several scenes of people just talking where he doesn’t do anything fancy with the camera. In fact, during one of the longer stories, he even cuts the visuals to let you really concentrate on what’s being said. That’s ballsy. I can’t imagine a big studio release ever doing something like that, but I really, really enjoyed it.
So, as a coming out party for Patterson, The Vast of Night is super impressive visually. However, I can’t say that I loved it. Because, honestly, the plot isn’t the strongest. You can pretty much guess where it’s going from the setup. I also can’t fault the movie that much either because it’s not trying to be anything original. It’s obviously paying homage to 50’s science fiction and that’s exactly what it feels like. This is pretty much a really well-directed episode of The Twilight Zone. Unfortunately, it’s one that you’ve seen before and doesn’t really stand out from the pack all that much. It’s kind of just bland. I wanted to be invested more than I was. The acting is good. The visuals are good. There’s some really unique storytelling tricks here. But, the plot just didn’t grab me.
Overall, I’d say that The Vast of Night is worth a watch if you’re interested. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime. It’s only 90 minutes. And, like I said, there’s some good stuff in there. Just don’t expect to be blown away by it.
TL;DR: The Vast of Night is a really well directed version of a story you’ve already heard a million times.
Score: 6/10 (Ok)