“The Vast of Night” is a film directed, co-produced, and written by Andrew Patterson. The film premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival in January 2019 and was later released in the U.S in May 2020 after Amazon Studios acquired the distribution rights. I can’t vouch for the availability of this film across other streaming platforms – Amazon keep their properties close to hand to retain exclusivity for their paying Prime members, but should you get the opportunity to watch it. . .then WATCH IT ALREADY!
The film is loosely based on the Kecksburg UFO incident and Foss Lake disappearances and is set in the 1950’s. It also pays homage to the classic American TV series “The Twilight Zone” (1959 – 1964) in that the film opens as if watching it on a television set from the same period. Once the opening credits are done the picture blossoms to UHD quality and this very watchable ride through 1950’s UFO conspiracy theory begins proper. On a personal note I found myself glued to this story from start to finish – mainly due to the sublime directing skills of Mr Patterson. There is no “wasted” footage, or scenes that are unnecessary time fillers, each scene is slick and the smooth transitions effortlessly hold your attention as the strange discoveries begin to unfold for the characters and viewer alike.
Starring Sierra McCormick as Fay Crocker, who helps run the local switchboard, and Jake Horowitz as Everett Sloan, who works as a local DJ at the WOTW radio station. And as a side note, the switchboard used in the film is authentic and in perfect working order – a detail, among others, that the film totally embraces throughout. The film has numerous “stand out” moments, one being when the camera tracks through the whole town at about knee height and gives the viewer a real sense of the close-knit community and where everything is in relation to each other in time and space.
So what happens you may ask? Well. . .I’m not going to tell you everything because that would be pointless and defeat the very purpose as to why I think you should watch it for yourself.
Plot details ahead.
Cayuga: New Mexico: 1950’s.
Everett, the local DJ, is at the high school helping prepare for the basketball game later that evening. There, he hooks up with his friend, Fay, who shows him her new tape recorder but is nervous and unsure how to use it. Everett helps her out with his knowledge as they both leave the school to walk Fay to her switchboard job. Once Fay has been safely escorted to her job, Everett heads for the radio station to begin the late show. Back at the switchboard Fay is busy connecting callers from all over to their respective destinations. In a quieter moment Fay tunes in to Everett’s radio program which is suddenly interrupted by a strange audio signal she can’t identify – she can also sense this noise in the night sky. A call comes in and that too is interrupted by the same strange audio signal. Fay makes some quick calls to some local folk to ask them if they are experiencing any interference on their telephone lines, but this time the connection drops out. Perplexed, Fay decides to call Everett and ask his advice as to what the interference could be.
The call connects and Everett asks if the signal is still there, if so, could she patch it through to him. This she does and Everett decides to put it live on air and asks his listeners if they have any idea as to what the signal could be? A few moments later Everett’s telephone rings and a man called Billy is at the other end. After a quick lesson in radio protocol and etiquette Everett puts Billy live on air so all his listeners can hear what he has to say. Billy was in the military some time ago and during his service he and other “ethnic” minority people in service were taken to a secret base deep in the desert to work on a project none of them could ever speak about to anyone. They were tasked to build a massive underground bunker – bigger than a football field. It was during that time when Billy, on completing the project and leaving on an aircraft that he heard the very same audio sound as he had just heard on Everett’s radio broadcast. Everett is visually stunned by this news and even more so as Billy’s connection is dropped. Billy manages to reconnect then divulges that back then a friend of his managed to record this signal and sent it out to all those who were involved in the project. One of those people worked in the Air Force in Cayuga but died some years back, and Fay realises that this person’s tapes were sent to the local library. They gain access to the library and find the tapes in question, after a quick sifting through the tapes back at WOTW Everett finds a tape with the same audio signal and at that very moment the power to the radio station is cut and everything is blacked out.
They make a dash to the switchboard building and Fay finds the switchboard going crazy from callers trying to get through. They all report “something big in the sky” what’s going on? Fay is as confused as they are and cannot offer any explanation.
Another call comes through, this time it’s from an actual resident of Cayuga, Mabel. Because of her age and underlying health issues Mabel isn’t as mobile as she once was, but offers to give them more information if they come across town to see her in person.
Everett and Fay make their way across town to learn what they do. . .and that’s it, no more from me your humble reviewer. I leave you with a dangling carrot hoping you will take the bait?
To sum up. This film is fricking excellent. It builds the tension to an unbearable extent until the very last scene. It more than qualifies as my favourite film of the year so far.