The Vast of Night already carries something ominous along the way based on the title alone, but if anything else best sums up what makes this film a perfect Rod Serling tribute, all the evidence you need is present in there alone. There’s nothing more vast about the atmosphere that makes up the nighttime, because for some you can already say that it’s a beautiful thought – and yet for others it also makes for great nightmare fuel. Andrew Patterson’s directorial debut is one that mixes all of those elements in order to create what is also the perfect Twilight Zone tribute film, and it also leaves a lingering effect on the viewers.
Set in a town in 1950’s New Mexico, The Vast of Night tells a story revolving around a strange radio frequency that grabs the attention of Everett (Jake Horowitz) and Faye Crocker (Sierra McCormick). The students, fascinated by the source of the frequency, are determined to find the source of the signal as they travel all throughout the night. Capturing an era that has long gone away, Andrew Patterson’s debut feature film is not one that feels reliant on the nostalgia one would picture from the way in which many would have pictured entertainment from the time period, and what follows is a loving homage that still feels like it could have been a fresh episode today.
While the most overt influence that can be felt from The Vast of Night is obviously that of Rod Steiger’s, there’s still a whole lot that can be felt as it has been lifted from the early work of Steven Spielberg or John Carpenter too. One could even draw comparisons even to an episode of Stranger Things but Andrew Patterson also establishes an entity of his own through The Vast of Night, one that also makes for an effective work all around. He demonstrates a wonderful skill for establishing atmosphere, blending elements of science fiction and horror in order to capture the essence that makes up the vast concept of what could all unfurl in the course of a night. From the simplicity expressed within the darkness as well as the sound design, reminiscent of the time period of the film’s setting, you’re made to feel everything happening on the spot.
Patterson teases mystery too perfectly, from as little as the atmosphere to the anonymity of the source of the signal, as well as the curiosity of his lead characters – played beautifully by Jake Horowitz and Sierra McCormick. It’s their curiosity that also drives our interests; but with everything else that Patterson establishes about the setting you soon have a sense of dread in regards to where it shall soon take a turn. Yet Patterson also establishes something more wondrous from the aesthetic, resembling a television serial – as if there’s more to be found later. Within the realm of a feature film, it works amazingly, yet he continually feeds our curiosity as the story meets its end.
If you’re wondering how much could happen in the course of a night, yet you’re still left to process everything like it were every other night in an ordinary town, The Vast of Night does so much more than just show all of that. Everything in The Vast of Night seems so ordinary, but that’s also what makes it all so beautiful too. Like the greatest episodes of The Twilight Zone, even worlds that seemed so ordinary to us can be room for grander mysteries to unfold. Yet the nighttime only invites so much more of this to happen all on the spot, because it is already such a vast concept on all fronts. The night is mysterious, it’s beautiful, it’s entrancing, but to explore the vast of night would bring you somewhere else entirely.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Amazon Studios.
Directed by Andrew Patterson
Screenplay by James Montague, Craig W. Sanger
Produced by Adam Dietrich, Melissa Kirkendall, James Montague
Starring Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz, Gail Cronauer, Bruce Davis
Release Date: September 12, 2019 (TIFF)
Running Time: 90 minutes