The makers of The Vast of Night could not have predicted their movie would come out during a pandemic. They could not have known that most viewers would be stuck at home looking for new entertainment. They ended up making the perfect movie for a pandemic, because it’s all about characters confined to spaces, listening to stories of events you didn’t witness. The Vast of Night is now available on Amazon Prime.
‘The Vast of Night’ is like a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode
The movie begins on an old 1950s television set showing Paradox Theater, a pseudo Twilight Zone show. Their narrator even spouts a similar phrase to Rod Serling’s intro. The film zooms into the episode “The Vast of Night” and presents the story in full widescreen.
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Radio DJ Everett Sloan (Jake Horowitz) talks with high school girl Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick). The film follows Fay and Everett walking and talking for a while to set up their characters and the style of the film.
Fay works the switchboard while most of the town is at a high school basketball game. She hears a noise and called Everett at the station. Together, they try to discern what it means, and they have help.
‘The Vast of Night’ and the sound of an invasion
Things really pick up when a caller named Billy (Bruce Davis) calls Everett’s radio show to explain where he’s heard the noise before. It’s all on McCormick and Horowitz’s faces as they listen to the story. They’re compelling enough just listening that you focus on the voice on the line.
This is an effective way to make a low budget thriller. If you have no money you can make a compelling radio drama with actors who can deliver on screen. It still feels like a gimmick, like when The Blair Witch Project used rocks and sticks in the woods because they didn’t have money for special effects. That worked out well for them too.
They do sell this as an episode of a ’50s TV anthology show and that is the sort of thing a TV show would do as a bottle episode. And they do break up the storytelling so it’s not 90 straight minutes of talking. Fay and Everett scramble in between interviews with people who know more about what’s going on tonight.
Filming ‘The Vast of Night’
For a film about talking, radio shows and switchboards, The Vast of Night is as visually compelling as its story. Tracking shots cover a lot of ground, whosever point of view it is. It goes back to the ’50s TV frame occasionally.
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The only downside is that Amazon Prime doesn’t do any favors to the cinematography. There’s a white haze over the film on Prime. The darkness levels of night don’t really hold up as they should in HD. But it’s the campfire story, so the content is king.
The Vast of Night is a cool little yarn to discover on Prime. McCormick and Horowitz were great finds for leading this material through unobtrusively. Hopefully fans of this movie will discover their previous work too.