On the surface The Vast of Night is a cute, short, sci-fi indie flick. But to leave it at just that would be downgrading what debut director Andrew Patterson has actually managed to achieve. It’s certainly small scale but perfectly utilises its style and originality to create a much larger and more profound piece. Built on a shoestring budget, predominately funded by Patterson himself, the movie exercises wonderful camera work and hefty script writing instead of grand set pieces to create its mystery.
Set in the fictional town of Cayuga, New Mexico in the 1950’s, The Vast of Night tells a short story of local radio DJ Everett (Jake Horowitz) and his friend Fay (Sierra McCormick), who is the telephone switchboard operator. With the majority of the population of Cayuga packed into the local high school’s gymnasium, for a basketball game, Everett and Fay continue their routine nighttime jobs. All seems normal until Fay picks up a frequency that is unlike anything she’s heard before. Alerting Everett to the haunting echoing sounds, they send it out to their listeners, hoping someone can shed some light on the mystery. This leads the two on an investigation, chasing reports of mysterious sightings and informational callers. What went on that night in Cayuga?
Patterson knows he doesn’t have the tools to match a Spielberg or Cameron blockbuster, and thankfully he doesn’t even try to reach those limits. The mystery is behind his unique storytelling and impeccable craftsmanship. There’s one shot which eerily takes you through the desolate streets of Cayuga, right through the middle of a packed out basketball game, and back out to the ‘WOTW’ radio station, where Everett is located. It’s a stunning shot, and thankfully not the only one to demonstrate the talent of a newcomer.
For an average movie goer, The Vast of Night might be a little lost on you. It builds very slowly, with the majority of its excitement being crammed in to its final third. But if you can appreciate filmmaking without all the flashiness, then Petterson’s debut outing might entice you with its mesmerising mysteriousness. A homage to extraterrestrial sci-fi, that excels through its alluring, yet meticulous design.