The Vast of Night Review – A Wonderful Career Kickstart for Andrew Patterson

The Vast of Night is a clever, tightly shot and scripted low budget science fiction thriller that takes on the topic of New Mexico alien abductions in a style that falls somewhere between the uncanny filmmaking of David Lynch and a mystery television play, or radio show from the 1950s.

First time director Andrew Paterson weaves a fascinating narrative about two high school students — sixteen-year-old switchboard operator Fay (Sierra McCormack) and her friend and potential boyfriend local radio disc jockey Everett (Jake Horowitz) over the space of a single evening as strange lights appear in the sky and a mysterious sound appears over the radio waves and phone lines in their sleepy All-American town.

The film begins with Fay and Everett fast talking about their lives and dreams as they finish their high school day. Fay has bought herself a tape recorder and is practicing her radio voice as the more experienced and awkwardly charming Everett guides her through the process that she will need to undergo to become a professional disc jockey. The bespectacled pair are charmingly nerdy outsiders who both want to move on to something bigger and better after high school. For Everett it’s a large-scale job in a bigger radio station, but for Fay who is responsible for both housekeeping and earning money in her single parent family a life plan isn’t so straight forward with even college being something that is out of the realm of affordability for her.

Whilst most of the town prepares to attend the big high school basketball game Fay and Everett go to their respective jobs which afford them a seat on the front lines when the weird events of the night begin to take shape. As Fay takes over the switchboard she notices a weird sound that begins to interrupt calls cutting people off. The townsfolk not at the game are calling each other discussing strange lights and there being something in the sky. Sensing a story Fay calls Everett whilst he is on air and plays him the sound. He makes a call out to listeners if they can identify the sound and perhaps explain the strange phenomena that is gripping the town.

Patterson leans in to a million genre clichés in his film, from episodes of The Twilight Zone which at times the cinematography matches to documentary voice overs from so called Roswell and other close encounters stories, yet his work never falls completely into the trap of being anything but fresh. Cinematographer M.I. Littin-Menz and screen writers James Montague and Craig W. Sanger create an ingenious framing technique by placing the film in a fictional television show called The Paradox Hour. As the action ramps up the film swaps between shot within the television show to being a full colour action packed race against time to find the source of the bizarre lights in the sky and to follow the stories of ex-military man Billy (voiced by Bruce Davis) and local shut in Mabel Blanche (Gail Cronauer) whose stories of alien intervention and abductions lead Fay and Everett to chase the thrilling story. A chase that will lead them to escaping their town in a manner completely unexpected to them, if a little bit predictable for the audience.

The dialogue is neatly snappy peppered with era specific buzzwords. Both Sierra McCormack and Jake Horowitz are charming and frenetic in their performances. It would have been all to easy for them to rely on a certain level of schmaltz to carry the characterisation, but both actors are engaging, and the audience is invested in their journey and eventual fates.

The music is a great mix of a 50s like rock and roll score mixed with works by the composer Gustav Holst and a genuinely creepy original soundtrack by Jared Bulmer and Erick Alexander.

The Vast of Night premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival and is an excellent example of what the festival is about in giving low budget and emerging filmmakers the opportunity to showcase at the beginning of their careers. It was later picked up by Amazon Studios for general release. It is not a perfect work, but it is a strong piece considering the relative inexperience of the crew. I doubt that this is the last we hear of Andrew Patterson whose career has been given an excellent kickstart by his film.

Director: Andrew Patterson

Cast: Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz, Gail Cronauer

Writers: Andrew Patterson, Craig W. Sanger

Nadine Whitney

Nadine Whitney holds qualifications in cinema, literature, cultural studies, education and design. When not writing about film, art or books, she can be found napping and missing her cat.

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