29 May 2020 | TwistedContent
If You Love Everything That's Ominous and Twilight-Zone-esque
Just yesterday's evening I turned yet another page on my journey through Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone", and even though I was anticipating "The Vast of Night", I did not predict it to be so pleasantly and thickly atmospheric, beautiful and just plain awesome, as well as inspired by everything that's twilight-zone-esque. So, fans of such vibes, assemble, because we got an unlikely modern gem on our hands.
Things that'll follow are impressive, and become even more impressive in the light of the fact that "The Vast of Night" is the very first voyage into cinema by its director Andrew Patterson and both writers, James Montague and Craig W. Sanger - three names to look forward to in the future. The cast is quite unknown as well, and the budget is micro, allegedly pulled together by the director. On the foreground of these factors, this already well-oiled lo-fi modern sci-fi classic-in-making glows even more brightly.
In the first couple minutes the movie makes it known its served as if it was an episode of a fictional 50's sci-fi fantasy TV show called "Paradox Theather", an obvious and acknowledged "The Twilight Zone" knock-off. The first act we spend following the lively and lovely main characters through their small home town of Cayuga (another nod to Rod Serling) - they are local radio DJ Everett (Jake Horowitz) and young switchboard operator Fay (Sierra McCormick). Quickly enough we see and feel the many qualities of "The Vast of Night" that'll stay with us till the end. One of them is the setting of 50's, which is fulfilled with great attention to detail, both visually and mentally, it's the time where small towns seemed more intimate and unified, and when future seemed like an endless and uncertain stream of far-reaching possibilities. Another point of great charm is the cinematography, perhaps one of my favorite examples of this art in a long time. There are many long takes, some mostly static, some moving one-takes, one of which might prompt a silent "whoa". The longest take was, I believe, about 9 and a half minutes long. Cinematographer M. I. Littin-Mentz ("Hands of Stone", "Resistance") has made the camera a presence of sorts, a force of intimacy and uneasiness. In regards of editing, there are some choices that might prompt some why's, but there's nothing that'd really take away or take out much of anything. The sum of the elements come out on the far positive side, providing an atmosphere that immerses, you'll be a citizen of Cayuga before You know it.
The main story kicks into gear at the start of the second act, as both our heroes encounter an eerie radio signal floating on the local waves, and start trying to unspool the slow descending mystery. "The Vast of Night" pays homage to multiple sci-fi and horror classics, yet it constantly feels original and inventive on its own, somehow mixing together sticky and sweet feeling of nostalgia with a breath of fresh creativity and originality, letting the latter lead the show at all times. Same can be said about the haunting original score, composed by Erick Alexander and Jared Bulmer, to whom this is also the very first endeavor in movies. The movie, for the most part, is essentially a talking piece, and the overall idea is as ominous and ambiguous as you'd probably guess, so action sci-fi fans and lovers of structured and concluded stories might find themselves frustrated.
Props also have to be given to the previously mentioned Jake Horowitz and Sierra McCormick. "The Vast of Night" is Jake's very first full feature acting debut, and I'd never guessed that while watching the movie, for both he and Sierra do a terrific job in their roles and carry on with the night's vibes in admirable synchronicity. I'm not the guy to know, but I felt like even the accents, the language and way of talking of the 50's was generally nailed.
It's one of those movies where it's better to go in blind, yet I believe it's healthy to estimate what not to expect - and so we've got that out of the way. As the credits were rolling, I found myself happily thinking that the sense of wonder still exists, there are secrets to uncover, and that creativity, as well as some forgotten and amazing vibes, is alive and well. My rating: 8/10.