Tapping into the nostalgic delight of the likes of old-school anthology series The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limit, The Vast of Night takes viewers back to the 1950s, and follows the events of a single night in New Mexico. Fay is a teenage switchboard operator, while Everett is radio DJ who brims with confidence. Together they dig into a strange sound that people keep reporting that may point to the existence of life in the great unknown.
The Vast of Night is a perfect example of how to craft a blockbuster without the budget to act. It is both an intimate character piece and a sci-fi with expansive ideas and one eye looking out to the cosmos. It feels like it has been a long time since a work has so successfully captured why it is audiences are so drawn to stories about encounters with extra-terrestrial life. The look and sound of the piece is exemplary, recreating the period without overwhelming it with references (which the likes of Stranger Things and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark have all fallen into). The costumes are delightful, the settings evocatively crafted and all framed perfectly by the film’s confident camera work. M.I. Littin-Menz’s cinematography is fabulous with a particularly exceptional shot that kicks off the second act. The music is suitably evocative of the period and it is remarkable that this is Erick Alexander and Jared Bulmer first credit as composers. All involved will be names we associate with exceptional genre works going forward.
The ensemble brims with talent, with the actors balancing the shift in tones with skill. It helps that writers James Montague and Craig W. Sanger have put together a whip smart and pacey script that comes across as a delight to act out. Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz are perfectly cast in the central roles, bringing personality and charm to their characters. McCormick is a sparkling screen presence, with Fay being a likeable protagonist for the story being told, whilst Horowitz has a swagger and charm that perfectly suits his character.
Everything about The Vast of the Night sings. It’s a funny character piece, an endearing intimate period work and a sci-fi that is genuinely able to unnerve and intrigue. Any fears of a static watch due to the rather dense text being performed is unfounded given the skill behind the camera that brings this film to life. I wouldn’t be surprised if The Vast of the Night ends up in my top films of 2020, it’s that strong.