The Vast of Night (2020): Makes For Good Radio, Or a Good Movie

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“The Vast of Night” is directed by Andrew Patterson, AKA James Montague or Junius Tully. Look up this guy on IMDb, the man has three names! This film stars Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz in a film set during the 1950s. Two people, a switch operator and a DJ behind a radio station uncover the mystery of a strange audio frequency that could end up changing the nature of their town.

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First off, if you’re reading this, happy second half of 2020! I cannot believe we actually made it this far as a society! Yippee! Second, this film came out at a bunch of festivals including Fantastic Fest, Chicago International, TIFF, and Slamdance (not to be confused with Sundance). Although it did not really grant much access to the viewing public until 2020. Given how there’s a big pandemic, it didn’t have all that much of a theatrical release. However, it did have a limited run at drive-ins so it managed to have some of that theatrical flavor. Having seen this movie, I think it’s a perfect fit for a drive-in given its vibe, how it’s set in the 1950s, and the color grading has a hint of that old-time feel. But I didn’t see “The Vast of Night” at a drive-in, I saw it for free on Amazon Prime, considering how the movie is marketed as an Amazon Original. Who can turn down a free movie?

Here’s the truth about 2020. It’s the f*cking WORST! I cannot believe that a year could have ever been this tragic and infuriating! You ever had a dream that you wanted to achieve in 2020? Guess what? Go home! Time to find a new dream! I could make a whole post about this, but instead, let’s stick with movies. Because otherwise I would have eradicated all of humanity through brutal anger. Actually, you know what? Let’s mix the two topics up. Not a bad idea! This is honestly what could arguably the single least satisfying and anger-inducing year for film that I have witnessed not just while doing Scene Before, but also my life. I am not watching as much new material as I have in the past. All the theaters are closed, and of the new movies I have seen, nothing stands out. The highest grade I gave this year for a new film was a 7/10. Let me just say something about “The Vast of Night…”

It might be my favorite movie of 2020 so far.

2020, this is what movies are! Screw “My Spy!” Forget “Scoob!” F*ck “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” to hell and back! “The Vast of Night” is a fun, engaging, and somewhat satisfying flick… That isn’t perfect, let me just be clear here.

Because it is 2020, the year of complaining, I’m gonna start off with some negatives. This is a 91 minute film. And surprisingly, it gets a little slow at times. When I look at the runtime of a film, I sometimes think “Oh wow! Ninety minutes? I can watch this in a breeze!” While “The Vast of Night” is not necessarily an exception to this belief, there are one or two scenes that I won’t specifically dive into, but they go on for a little longer than I would anticipate. There’s a lot of explanation to expose the happenings of the film and I get that exposition is a necessary part of storytelling, but it sort of felt like watching the 2019 Super Bowl, something that tried to have a fast pace but was missing something. This pacing problem did not ruin the movie, and I imagine if I saw this film at a drive-in like some people did, there’s a good chance that this complaint could be irrelevant, but it felt like there was one specific scene where a character drones on for a little too long.

The Vast of Night (2019) - IMDb

One of the standout things about this movie in general is that it comes from people I don’t know at all. The two stars, AKA Sierra McCormack and Jake Horowitz are people who I don’t really recognize from a lot of projects. The director, what do you call him? James Montague? Junius Tully? Andrew Patterson? Turd Ferguson? I looked this guy up on IMDb, this is currently his ONLY credit. This is his debut for directing, writing, producing, and if Andrew is ALSO known as Junius Tully and does not appear to be somebody else I should know, his debut for editing and being in the editorial department. Basically, it’s five debuts in one! A lot of times when I look at the credits of the film, maybe someone will write the film, they’ll also direct and produce the film, maybe play a role in it. It’s not every day that I see filmmakers do all these things at once though. Granted, if you look at acclaimed masters of the industry like Kevin Smith, Alfonso Cuarón, and the Coen Brothers, yeah they edit their own films. But it’s nice to have this mix, while also getting to see work from someone you haven’t really been exposed to yet.

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And I would imagine that prior to making this film, Andrew Patterson has had some proper training within the art. When it comes to editing and camerawork, it is some of the best I have seen all year. The color grading in this film is fantastic. As for the movie itself, it is genuinely mysterious and spooky. This movie kind of comes off like it is some ninety minute episode of “The Twilight Zone.” In fact the first shot of the movie is of an old television set that is playing the intro to a show that pretty much takes almost every single element from the intro of “The Twilight Zone.” Everything from the music to the suspenseful buildup and even the captivating voice. There are some notable differences, but nevertheless.

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I will also give credit to the actors in this film, who I might admittedly end up not necessarily remembering at the end of the year for their ability to convey their characters, but their ability to stay sane during a nine minute shot. There is one scene where much of the focus is on the main girl switch operator and we see everything going on from her perspective. I was amazed at how the crew pulled this off without much error. That’s one of the big compliments I can give this film from a cinematography and camerawork perspective, they do so much to make this film look so crisp while also doing these long, extended, neverending takes. It kept my eyes on the screen for a long, long time. Speaking of shots, there’s numerous scenes that take place on a basketball court, and it adds up to bring in some of the most insane filmmaking of the year. This may be the first time of 2020, that I legit had a mind-blowing moment while watching a film. The other one might have been “Sonic the Hedgehog” because if you know anything about video game movies, there’s an often-shared stigma that they’re lackluster and some of worst products put to screen. But unlike that movie, which at times felt like a product that was heavily commercialized, “The Vast of Night” comes off as a passion project made by a group of people who were really excited to show off their skills and experience, even if not everyone was that experienced to begin with.

I stand by and understand the notion that all movies, in some way, are made for the sake of profit or raking in money. “The Vast of Night” kind of reminded me of an advanced student film, and I mean that in a positive way. It felt like a movie that I would want to make, to the point where I go beyond my imagination with the production value, the cinematography, finding the right people, and every other technical aspect you can think of. There felt like there was just a little more than the idea of getting rich when it comes to the aspirations behind “The Vast of Night,” and other than “The Way Back,” starring Ben Affleck, which I saw in March and have not reviewed yet, I don’t think I have seen as personal of a film this year. For those who are curious, this was shot in 17 days during September 2016 on a Red Epic camera. The result, satisfying.

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In the end, “The Vast of Night” is vastly entertaining. This is the movie that made me perhaps somewhat excited to watch and review new movies once again. It’s not perfect, as stated before, but given the limitations that this film had during production, to have it come out the way did is nothing short of incredible. At the same time though, maybe those extended scenes can also serve as a blessing in disguise, because even though I can tell that the story is relatively simple, maybe I’ll pick up on something in the future in regards to this movie should I watch it again. This year, I haven’t given any 10s, I haven’t given any 9s. Not because I’m trying to get a little more strict with my ratings, I just really have not seen much of anything worth talking about. And unfortunately, this year will continue to lack 9s and 10s, BUT I’m going to give “The Vast of Night” my first 8/10 of the 2020 calendar! Sometimes it does not take much to impress me, and in this case that is certainly true. This movie was produced for under $1 million, which in many circumstances is a lot of money, but for some cases within in the film industry, a million bucks is nothing. It’s chump change. “The Vast of Night” felt like a film that was crafted by someone who knew what they wanted to do and it felt just a tiny tad more expensive than maybe it turned out to be. The only thing that takes such a notion away are some of the extended shots, which are marvelous by the way.

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Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this post and have a WordPress account, consider leaving a like! Also, if you want to see more content, be sure to follow Scene Before for all the goings on here on Flicknerd.com. As for upcoming content, I was PLANNING on going to a Regal Cinemas location next week to see what they’re doing after all the shenanigans, but of course, they delayed their reopening because life sucks and nothing else matters anymore. In most cases, this comment sounds childish, but in the time of 2020, this is pretty tame. Just spreading the truth! However, there is some good news to share… I live in Massachusetts, and it was just announced by Governor Charlie Baker that phase 3 begins July 6th! That means movie theaters in the state of Massachusetts are permitted to reopen as long as they follow guidelines! I don’t know how many theaters would open, but to know that they are eligible excites me. So maybe I’ll do a post on how they are dealing with reopening and what it is like to go to a theater during this… (sigh) “new normal.” Hate saying that. There’s a good chance that I will review another movie within the next week should time allow such a thing to happen, but since I talk about “Tenet” a lot, maybe I’ll do something related to that, I dunno. But if you are bored and are tired of scrolling through my blog on WordPress, I have the solution for you. LIKE MY FACEBOOK PAGE! It’s like my blog, only different! More behind the scenes stuff and random s*it that you don’t get to see on here. I want to know, did you see “The Vast of Night?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie that is set in the 1950s that did not come out in the 1950s? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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