The retro sci-fi film “The Vast of Night” does a lot with a micro-budget, proving that it doesn’t take boatloads of cash to tell a suspenseful story. It’s a spooky campfire tale brought to life, but it’s slow moving and ends with a payoff that’s more of a whimper than a bang.
Welcome to rural New Mexico in the 1950s, where sixteen year old Fay (Sierra McCormick) works the telephone switchboard. She’s smitten with Everett (Jake Horowitz), the town’s handsome, charismatic radio DJ. The two come together when they discover an audio frequency that’s causing some strange activity around the area.
After more crossed patchlines, dropped signals, and phone calls from an anonymous Air Force member and a creepy woman who spins a tale about a possible child abduction by flying saucers, the pair embark on a scavenger hunt to uncover the mystery. Is it the work of Russian spies, or could there be something attempting contact from the sky?
The film thrives on simplicity, both in storytelling and ingenuity. Director Andrew Patterson relies heavily on sound to set the tone and build tension, and there’s a cool look and feel to the vintage-style cinematography. It’s a well made movie, but there isn’t much substance to the screenplay.
The characters are boring and paper-thin, and the uninteresting dialogue doesn’t serve to advance the story (especially the first 20 minutes, which is spent with pointless chit chat about articles exploring the future of invention). Patterson chooses to drop subtle clues, but he does it far too slowly. This causes the film to feel too long and better suited for a short film versus a 90 minute feature.
Although imperfect, there’s much to appreciate about “The Vast of Night.” Just be prepared for disappointment when all of the effective suspense and anticipation is quickly squandered in an anticlimactic finale.