2019 saw the release of two great indie science fiction gems with similar stories. The first one is little known Cosmos, taking place in the present time and the second one is the movie we will be reviewing here, The Vast of the Night. Filled with classic science fiction references, it redefines the term retro sci-fi with such ease that you can’t help but be enthralled. Not only it is very well written but it’s also competently shot and edited. You can barely see that this is a passion project with an extremely limited budget.
However, if you’re looking for action or juicy alien stuff, you won’t find it here. At least not in the large quantities. This is a slow-burner that takes its time to build the story and characters through a lot of dialogue. Like a lot. It’s not a perfect movie and towards the end, it gets a bit underwhelming and bogged down in two really prolonged confession scenes, but this doesn’t affect the final rating.
It takes place during the fifties before we conquered space travel and it’s filled with positive anxiety and hope about the future. Cute references to the thing that might happen in the future reminded me of a show I used to watch as a kid: Beyond 2000. It ran from 1985 to 1999 and featured all sorts of predictions and inventions. It’s so sad to think we’re living in this fucked world now, although, as always, there’s hope on the horizon. The fifties inevitably remind me also of Arthur Clark, Asimov and other “hard science fiction” writers.
It’s a big night in a small town of Cayuga, New Mexico. The local high school basketball team is playing their biggest rivals and everybody is excited to see the game. Everybody but our two protagonists. Everett Sloan is a cool and suave local DJ with big dreams working tonight at the local radio station. Fay Crocker works as the switchboard operator and she’s fascinated with technology. She just got a new tape recorder and Everett is showing her how it works before she goes off to work. None of them are aware that their lives will change tonight. It all starts with strange signal interrupts Everett’s radio show…
Although the official event listed as the inspiration for this movie is Kecksburg UFO incident, the events that happen in the movie sound eerily similar to the Berkshire UFO incident. This strange event was the subject of the fifth episode of the 2020 edition of Unsolved Mysteries that can be found on Netflix. Speaking of streaming services, Amazon picked up this movie after it premiered at the 2019 Slamdance Film Festival in January 2019. So it’s not like they produced it or were involved in its creation.
Right from the high-powered opening scene that looks like it belongs in some much, much bigger movie The Vast of the Night shows off its quality. Quality and dedication to detail. From the way the actors operate the archaic machinery to the way the story is unfolding, everything is thought out and practiced to perfection. This just immerses you into the movie, transporting you to the fifties as you’re waiting for the next plot twist.
Besides our strange signal mystery we also have great chemistry between our two leads. Their characters are really well developed, two nerds looking for a way out of the small city. I just loved how he’s bulshitting his way to success and she just trusts him by default. Some great writing right here. I can’t wait to see next Andrew Patterson’s project, it’s going to be fucking awesome, I can already feel it.
Director: Andrew Patterson
Writers: Andrew Patterson, Craig W. Sanger
Cast: Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz, Gail Cronauer, Bruce Davis, Cheyenne Barton, Mallorie Rodak, Mollie Milligan
Fun Facts: The mythical town Cayuga is based on Cayuga Productions, Rod Serling’s production company responsible for The Twilight Zone. There is no such town as Cayuga, New Mexico.