I really wanted to like The Vast of Night. This low-budget science-fiction thriller by first-time director Andrew Patterson is visually creative, but that sometimes gets in the way. The film also has creepy moments, but not quite enough of them.
The Vast of Night takes place on one fateful night in late-1950s New Mexico. Sixteen-year-old switchboard operator Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) and young chain-smoking radio DJ Everett Sloan (Jake Horowitz) come across an odd audio frequency and investigate its possible origin. Could it be the Russians—or extraterrestrials?
An unbroken nine-minute take of Fay at the switchboard discovering the audio frequency is riveting and moves the plot along, but an admittedly impressive unbroken take of the camera zooming through the town feels like a technical exercise and nothing more.
The opening shot of the movie has the camera pushing into a television set that is playing a fictional show, entitled Paradox Theater. It's clearly a Twilight Zone/Outer Limits-type show, and it is a cool idea on the filmmaker's part to present The Vast of Night as an episode of Paradox Theater. However, every now and then throughout the movie, some scenes turn into a fuzzy, black-and-white TV image, reminding us that this is supposed to be a television show. We get it. And every time it is done in the movie, it distracts from the particular scene and breaks any developing tension. They should have just book-ended the movie with it being presented as a TV show, and that's all.
The performances are good. McCormick is excellent as the wide-eyed teenage girl, and Horowitz is effective as a somewhat arrogant but likable young DJ.
Even though The Vast of Night doesn't quite gel, I will say that director Patterson is a filmmaker to watch.** ½ Stars (Out of Four)