The Reel Review
A young telephone switchboard operator and a radio DJ in a tiny town in 1950s New Mexico detect a strange radio frequency that could signal the arrival of UFOs from another world, in this sci-fi thriller now on Amazon Prime.
In his directorial debut, Andrew Patterson uses vintage cars, clothes and empty small town streets to transport viewers into a nifty period piece, set up as an episode of a Twilight Zone-styled television show called Paradox Theater. Some clever tracking camerawork, an eerie score and engaging performances from Sierra McCormick (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Ramona and Beezus) and Jake Horowitz help lend the film an air of anticipation and mystery.
Unfortunately, that mystery never really pays off. Patterson seems so caught up in that clever camerawork that many scenes linger for what feels like an eternity, with little to no point to them. The opening scene alone, with hard to hear, overly chatty banter between the two main characters, lasts for an agonizing 18 minutes. As a result, the uninspired, pedestrian script from newcomers James Montague and Craig W. Sanger is treated like an afterthought, like a way less intriguing knockoff of an episode of the X-Files, relying on long, talky monologues, rather than action. The result is a frustrating film that, despite a few glimmers of technical brilliance and such promise, is more likely to bore than scare you.
• Although set in a small town in New Mexico, The Vast of Night was actually filmed over a 17 day period in September 2016 in tiny Whitney, Texas.
• Cayuga, the fictional New Mexico town in the film, is an homage to Cayuga Productions, Rod Serling’s production company that produced The Twilight Zone. Serling’s family spent summers in Cayuga Lake, New York
• Director Robert Patterson, who hails from Oklahoma, got his start making local commercials prior to his feature film debut.