Directed and edited by Andrew Patterson and written by Patterson and Craig W. Sanger, The Vast of Night is the story of a radio DJ and a switchboard operator who discover a mysterious audio frequency while working at small town in New Mexico. Based on the real life Kecksburg UFO incident of 1965 and the Foss Lake disappearances around that same time, the film is an exploration of two people working late at night during the late 1950s as they deal with something mysterious that they believe could involve alien lifeform. Starring Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz. The Vast of Night is an entrancing and riveting film from Andrew Patterson.
Set entirely in one night at small town in New Mexico in the late 1950s, the film revolves around a young radio dee-jay and a 16-year old switchboard operator who both discover a mysterious noise that keeps cutting off phone calls with some calling about something up in the sky. It is a film that play into an event in which these two young people are working one night with nearly everyone in town attending a high school basketball game with some who are at home watching what is happening while the two who are at work are trying to figure out the source of this strange audio frequency. The film’s screenplay by Andrew Patterson, under his James Montague pseudonym, and Craig W. Sanger is largely straightforward in its narrative as it takes place entirely in one night.
Yet, it is filled with a lot dialogue that play into the relationship between the radio deejay Everett (Jake Horowitz) and the young switchboard operator Fay (Sierra McCormick) as the latter is interested in what Everett does. Still, it would be Fay’s work on the switchboard that would have her discover this strange sound as she asks a few friends including someone who is watching over her baby sister as she turns to Everett who would use his broadcast to ask someone if they knew this noise that is being played. Among them is a man named Billy (voice of Bruce Davis) who raises a lot of questions into what he discovers as does an old lady in Mable Blanche (Gail Cronauer) who would tell them a story about her own encounters in the film’s third act.
Patterson’s direction is stylish as it is shot largely on location in Whitney, Texas as this small town in New Mexico though the film opens in a room with an old TV showcasing the story in bits of black-and-white as if it was set in the 1950s/1960s and eventually shifting into color when the story is presented. Patterson also uses some unique tracking shots and long shots that play into the atmosphere of the film as it has Everett walking into the school gym where a game is set as it goes on for minutes in one entire take as it play into the kind of person Everett as someone who talks a lot and get things done but he’s also full of himself. Even towards Fay who just got a new tape recorder as she is eager to show Everett as they walk outside of the gym as they both walk towards their work stations while the scene of Fay working the switchboard goes on for a few minutes in one take as she deals with what she is hearing as well as those she’s calling as it is presented in a medium shot. There is also some unique wide shots of the location including a tracking-wide shot where Patterson takes the camera from Fay’s switchboard room to Everett’s radio station.
There are some close-ups in the film as it play into the scene of Everett talking to Billy as he’s recording their conversation while the scene with Blanche is presented in a simple medium shot where Blanche gives this monologue that goes on for minutes in one entire take. It is a chilling scene mainly because of what Blanche is talking about as Patterson only cuts when he has the camera focus on Everett who is in a medium shot in the foreground with Fay in the background as Patterson, under the pseudonym of Junius Tully, does the editing where he allows his shots to linger on while playing up to the suspense in a monologue or something the characters would encounter. The film’s climax is definitely one of intrigue as it play into not just words that Blanche had been reciting but also what it would attract as its ending is a strange one yet it also adds so much more into what is out there. Overall, Patterson crafts a chilling yet ravishing film about a radio deejay and a switchboard operator trying to discover a mysterious audio frequency at a small town in New Mexico in the late 1950s.
Cinematographer Miguel I. Littin-Menz does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on low-key lighting with the exception of the light inside the school gym as much of the lighting emphasis on low colors with some black-and-white for the scenes set in the TV. Production designer Adam Dietrich, with set decorator Tyler Corie and art director Jonathan Rudak, does excellent work with the look of the switchboard room that Fay works in as well as the radio station that Everett works at as it play into a look of the props to play into that period. Costume supervisor Jamie Reed does fantastic work with the costumes as it does play into the period of the times including the long dresses that young women wore at the time.
Visual effects supervisor Rodrigo Tomasso does superb work with the visual effects as it is largely elements of set dressing but also in some of the lighting that play into the suspense. Sound designers Johnny Marshall and David Rosenbald do phenomenal work with the sound in the way the audio frequency is presented and how discomforting is as well as how sound is presented on a location as it is a highlight of the film. The film’s music by Erick Alexander and Jared Bulmer is incredible for its low-key orchestral score that play into some soft moments while eventually becoming intense with its strings along with some eerie textures to add to the suspense while its music soundtrack feature pieces that play into the era of rock n’ roll at that time as it is the music that Everett plays as a lot of it is by Colton Turner.
The casting by Sally Allen and Toni Cobb Brock is great as it feature some notable small roles from Mark Banik and Cheyenne Barton as a couple Fay and Everett meet late in the film as they had witnessed something in the air, Gregory Peyton as a friend of Everett in Benny whom Everett was talking with early in the film, Brianna Beasley as the voice of Fay’s cousin Ethel who is watching over Fay’s baby sister, and Pam Dougherty in a trio of roles as a woman named Mrs. McBroom who goes to Everett early in the film about something in the gym as well as the voices of two characters calling Fay. Bruce Davis is fantastic as the voice of a man named Billy who recognizes the audio frequency as he reveals a lot into what he encountered and what the government is covering up. Gail Cronauer is excellent as Mable Blanche as an old woman who also recognized the audio frequency as she has a story of her own that is just as haunting as Billy’s as it play into what she encountered as a child and later on in life as it related to her own son.
Finally, there’s the duo of Jake Horowitz and Sierra McCormick in incredible performances in their respective roles as Everett and Fay. Horowitz’s performance is one full of wit but is also a skeptic when it comes to the stories he’s listening to while he is also someone that talks a lot and uses a different voice when he’s on the radio. McCormick’s performance is just as charming when she’s talking fast while is also someone who is more convinced about these stories as she is intrigued by what is happening. Horowitz and McCormick have great rapport together in the way they talk with one another with Horowitz being somewhat immature despite he’s older than McCormick’s character though she is someone more grounded in the way she acts towards humanity.
The Vast of Night is a phenomenal film from Andrew Patterson that features great performances from Jake Horowitz and Sierra McCormick. Along with its supporting cast, intoxicating visuals, a chilling music soundtrack, a simple yet compelling premise, and top-notch sound design. It is a film that uses a minimalist premise and setting while doing a lot with creating suspense and terror by doing so little. In the end, The Vast of Night is a sensational film from Andrew Patterson.
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I really liked this film a lot. It is one of those films that I find hard to describe in terms of its emotional impact. It made me feel very small and insignificant in the face of the universe, and that's a really cool quality for a film to have.
@SJHoneywell-This was a better film than I thought it would be as I just loved its usage of suspense as well as its minimalist setting and tracking shots. I heard a lot of praise towards this film and it's not just the critics who were right on this film but also the people. This is the definition of a gem and I'm looking forward to what Andrew Patterson does next.
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