Whether or not The Vast Of Night qualifies as horror is debatable. Whether or not it’s truckloads of fun is not, because it is.
Amazon bought the rights to writer-director-editor Andrew Patterson’s 90-minute sci-fi joyride after it developed noteworthy buzz on the festival circuit.
Nutshell: In the late 1950s, a tiny New Mexico town experiences extra-terrestrial shenanigans on the night of the big basketball game at the high school gym.
Fast-talking disc jockey Everett (Jake Horowitz) and his telephone operator sidekick Fay (Sierra McCormick) stumble upon a strange audio frequency and instantly find themselves hip deep in government coverups, eerie phone calls, and quite possibly visitors from outer space.
Can this gabby duo solve a mystery that’s out of this world?
The Vast Of Night is a camp stew of War of the Worlds (the radio station Everett works at is WOTW), X-Files, and Close Encounters, all familiar elements laid out like generous buffet stations.
It’s when Patterson’s visual acuity takes charge that the story soars to marvelous heights.
The movie plays out as an episode of Paradox Theater, a thinly disguised vintage stand-in for The Twilight Zone. Scenes open in fuzzy black and white before the characters come into focus, and then color gradually returns.
It’s a mesmerizing effect that binds us to the evolving narrative like there was never any choice in the matter.
Patterson’s boundless drone photography is bold and borders on gimmicky, but it lends exhilarating movement and flow to a movie that often slows down to let people talk for a spell.
A word of warning: Everett and Fay’s nonstop verbosity will irritate some members of the audience. If you dig well-written banter, there’s plenty to savor and save for later.
Don’t let the whimsical retro trappings fool you, though. The Vast Of Night contains a dilly of a conspiracy that might contain clues to our current chaos.
Keep watching the skies.