THE VAST OF NIGHT mainly gets away with it’s mostly “telling but not showing” premise because of it’s small small small small ass budget. I think less than $50,000, don’t directly quote me on that. If this had anything over a million, the long sequences of talking and telling a story without showing the audience any flashbacks would’ve been completely unforgivable. That being said, the dialogue from those scenes are believable and decent, so much so that those of you that mainly listened to the radio growing up would probably get a nostalgia high from it, those of you that didn’t, think of those FDR “Fireside Chats” you learned about in history class, and you can get the picture of what I’m talking about. The main reason to watch this movie isn’t because of the story or characters or acting, it’s because of some of the amazing camera shots. Near the very beginning where it follows a charismatic radio DJ in, out and around his high school before a big basketball game, and then somewhere near the middle where the camera sweeps through the town a couple of times, all one shot takes. They are AMAZING camera shots. Most of you casual moviegoers though, you’ll watch this film, probably wonder why in the fucking hell I’m giving it a recommendation, because truth be told, a lot of you will be bored and probably shut it off halfway through. But I’m giving this a pass, because even though the characterization was underwhelming, and also the story and ending a bit so-so as well, this low-fi sci-fi movie is a nice little homage to all the ones that came before, and 1950s era itself.
IMDB.com describes The Vast Of Night as: “In the twilight of the 1950s, on one fateful night in New Mexico, young switchboard operator Fay and charismatic radio DJ Everett discover a strange audio frequency that could change their small town and the future forever.” What I liked immediately when the movie started was a little homage to The Twilight Zone, as a Rod Sterling type voice tweaks the words of the opening of that TV show and instead frames the story as an episode of the fictional ‘Paradox Theater.’ It’s a little unfortunate that the movie doesn’t really capture a stretched out episode of The Twilight Zone and instead relegates everything to what would’ve been a cool yet small little broadcast in the vein of H.G. Wells’ The War of The Worlds when Mr. Wells’ read his story over the radio, and freaked out a bunch of people at the time. Not that that was ultimately bad, just a little disappointing. The story could’ve been tweaked to make it out like a feature of The Twilight Zone, however, that would’ve required flashbacks and the budget would’ve absolutely skyrocketed. There are several long sequences of still camera dialogues that will either make you or break you with liking this film. Two of the longest, between 5 – 10 minutes each, consists of an Army vet recollecting when he heard that signal for the first time over his career, and an older lady recollecting how she heard the audio frequency that lead to her son eventually being taken by the ‘people in the sky.’ This is all spaced out with the two leads, Fay and Everett, freaking out about said signal and going different places to investigate. The two leads do do a fine job of acting, nothing wrong in that department, but yet nothing special either. And it isn’t special because we really don’t get to know the characters all that well, it’s one-note development at its most disappointing. And at a short 89 minutes, those long dialogue scenes seem to stretch on forever.
Like I said before, the main reason to watch it are for a couple of the amazing camera dolly shots this film has, especially when it goes through the entire small town, in and out of the school and to swear the two characters work, it’s amazing how they pulled that off. And then the beginning where Everett is going through the school before he does his nightly broadcast. Take that camera work, get a high budget and a solid story, and director Andrew Patterson could be going places. They got the 50’s costumes and feel correct, they just needed to add more meat to the sandwich. But the bread is fresh baked out of the oven, the shots really are quite unique. And the story is decent, it just isn’t fleshed out, and again, it’s because of the budget. All roads of reasoning lead to the budget on this one for me. That’s why I’m giving this a recommendation, because when I was in college wanting to make movies at one time (see where I am now though), I really appreciated the things that students could come up with filming, with absolutely no money at all. $50,000 might sound like a lot to you, but it really isn’t. And the fact that this was made on that tight a budget, with some above average camera shots, is honestly a little breathtaking. Tomorrow I am going to post a review of a movie called The Wretched, that is dominating drive-in theaters right now and VOD, with not as small of a budget at this, but small enough that the visuals of that film are striking as well. The different between that and The Vast Of Night is that The Wretched has a giant twist I didn’t see coming and I was invested in the story more. But if you are a person that likes all of film, that appreciates and goes beyond just story or characters or visuals, then you might want to give this one a try. Just don’t expect a vastness of content.