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“The Vast Of Night” Is A Strong Calling Card But A Letdown As A Film

Necessity can be the mother of invention when telling a science fiction on a budget. Sometimes, the restraints bring about a creativity and uniqueness factor that might not otherwise be present. Amazon Studio’s latest release, The Vast of Night (which is now available to watch for anyone with an Amazon Prime account, following a brief VOD run) has the makings of this sort of a flick. Unfortunately, before too long, it just turns into a solid calling card for filmmaker Andrew Patterson, missing an opportunity to be as fully engrossing as it can be, in terms of being a full cinematic experience.

The movie is a period piece, mixing fantasy, mystery, and sci-fi. Presented with a Twilight Zone style framing device, it takes place in the small New Mexico town of Cayuga during the late 1950s. Most of the townsfolk are gathering for the local high school basketball game, including the charismatic Everett (Jake Horowitz) and the bubbly Fay (Sierra McCormick). The former is a radio DJ and the latter is a switchboard operator, so they both leave the gym, headed for their respective jobs, tinkering with a recording device and chatting about the future. While at work, Fay hears a strange sound over the wires, sharing it with Everett, who broadcasts it on his show. As they try to investigate what it is and where it’s coming from, a caller, as well as their sleuthing, begin to suggest the possibility that its origin is extraterrestrial. Patterson directs a screenplay by James Montague and Craig W. Sanger, with cinematography from Miguel Ioann Littin Menz. The cast also includes Gail Cronauer and Bruce Davis, while the score is by the team of Erick Alexander and Jared Bulmer.

Director Andrew Patterson likely has a great career in front of him. He has a strong visual eye and a good handle on his cast. Patterson lets his actors have the freedom to explore, which will serve him well. What doesn’t serve him well is his incredibly relaxed sense of pacing, as well as the paper thin script from James Montague and Craig W. Sanger. There’s just not much “there” there, sadly. Montague and Sanger have the germs of several interesting ideas, but Patterson never translates them to the screen, which is a real shame, considering his other strengths on display here.

The Vast of Night also does suggest that Jake Horowitz and Sierra McCormick are actors to watch out for. The former has a rhythm to his cadence that will fit either in more period pieces of modern fare, while the latter has an expressiveness that’s quite nice. Horowitz and McCormick don’t especially have notable chemistry together, but they’re each putting out solid work. Had the screenplay given them more to work with, or come up with a less frustrating resolution, and they may well have been able to really shine. Much like with Patterson, Horowitz and McCormick leave a better impression than the overall movie is able to.

Now available, The Vast of Night works best as a hint at what Patterson will one day be able to accomplish behind the camera. He has all of the tools at his disposal, that’s for sure. He just hasn’t fully been able to put it together yet. For now, this is an interesting and sporadically compelling misfire that will be intriguing to revisit some years down the road, when he’s a more established storyteller. Fans of sci-fi may want to give it a look, but keep your expectations in check. For the second time this week, I find myself wondering what so many people saw in a well reviewed film?

The Vast of Night is out currently on Amazon Prime.

(Photos courtesy of Amazon Studios)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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