Updated: Sep 14, 2020
With a nod to the old Twilight Zone series, a new movie called The Vast of Night takes viewers back to the nineteen-fifties through a television screen leading to Paradox Theater and a set of strange events. Appropriately enough for the TwilightZone’s Fifties era, The Vast of Night got a brief big screen roll out at drive ins throughout the country before heading to Amazon Prime for its bigger, Covid-nineteen stay-at-home audience. Strange times, but that suits The Vast of Night, which hit the radar after breaking out at one of the smallest festivals in the circuit, Slamdance. Running congruently in the same location as Sundance, Slamdance celebrates movies that others ignore in their hunt for famous faces and prestige projects. With a miniscule budget, no stars, and practical production values, The Vast of Night relies instead on elements often missing from many blockbusters: an intelligent script with witty dialogue, unselfconscious acting, and smooth, creative camera work. Andrew Patterson puts it all together with far more skill than expected from a first-time director. He stands out with his constantly moving camera, which sweeps through a small-town setting to cover diverse characters and places in a short time. Without cutting, he moves through windows and doors, getting from one scene to the next while revealing useful information. The details reveal a plot with familiar elements as a strange noise infuses an area and leads to close encounters of the low budget kind. Yet less expensive elements override the needs for elaborate special effects. An existing town that never lost its Fifties look and simple costumes bring in appropriate atmosphere, while Patterson’s visual style adds enticing flair. Add other like good dialogue and actors who speak it well, and The Vast of Night works like a ray of light in the dark world of sci-fi retreads.