Here’s how small towns work: either everyone knows everything that’s going on and everyone else is up to, or a big (relatively speaking, of course) event is going on and nobody is the wiser during said event.
Such is the case in ‘The Vast of Night.’
Everett Sloan (Jake Horowitz) and Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) listen for answers in ‘The Vast of Night.’ (Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios)
On a non-descript 1950s night in a non-descript New Mexico town, cantankerous radio DJ Everett Sloan (Jake Horowitz) and high school student/replacement telephone switchboard operator Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) find themselves as two of the only people in their small hometown not at the high school basketball game.
With the townspeople otherwise preoccupied, a strange sound starts coming through the phone lines and calls are mysteriously cut off. Looking for answers, Fay enlists Everett’s assistance.
Seeing a chance for compelling radio, Everett plays the sound over the airwaves and soon begins receiving calls from people claiming to have heard the sound before, others that claim it’s part of a covert military cover-up, and others from people convinced that it’s not of this world … and that it’s not the first time it’s been heard.
With few other options and little assistance or resources, Fay and Everett race to find the source of the sound that they believe is threatening their town.
Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) comforts her baby sister in ‘The Vast of Night.’ (Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios)
For people of a certain age, showing children (and even some young adults) ‘The Vast of Night’ could provide for some entertainment beyond the viewing experience itself. There’s rotary telephones and switchboard operators connecting calls, cigarettes rather than vape pens, and nobody bats an eye when said cigarettes are smoked indoors (in a high school no less).
The confusion alone should make it a worthwhile viewing experience. But it’s also an incredibly good movie – assuming you don’t mind a slow burn. You’ve got elements of sci-fi, drama, thriller, mystery, and fantasy at play here, all of which work well together.
If you’re expecting fast pacing, action-packed sequences, and non-stop intrigue, you’re barking up the wrong tree. The story unwinds slowly, which makes it feel real. Despite this slow burn, and charting in at a tidy 89 minutes, it never feels too slow and when it wraps up it doesn’t feel at all rushed. In fact, it almost feels like it’s unfolding in real time.
Adding to that sense of reality is the idea that virtually anything can happen – either believable or borderline insane – when people are preoccupied with something as mundane and every day as a high school basketball game. But if you’ve ever seen a small town during a big high school basketball game, you’ll know it’s not really that far-fetched.
Everett Sloan (Jake Horowitz) speaks with someone who claims to know the source of the mysterious sounds affecting the town’s phone lines in ‘The Vast of Night.’ (Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios)
There’s not a huge cast of characters, or any ancillary figures that stand out, but they aren’t really needed, as Horowitz and McCormick deliver dynamic yet understated performances.
In fact, I’d “understated” is a pretty good description of the entire movie. Director Andrew Patterson took screenwriters James Montague and Craig W. Sanger’s work (which was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay) and brought to life in a subtle, realistic and entertaining manner.
‘The Vast of Night’ is streaming now on Amazon Prime and showing at select movie theaters and drive-ins.
★★★★ of ★★★★★