Amazon’s The Vast of Night is a Subtly Terrifying and Mystifying Experience – Movie Review
X-Files Meets Andy Griffith Show Meets Quentin Tarantino
Harkening back to the days of Steven Spielberg and our fascination with the unknown, Amazon has released one of the best films this year.
Telling the original story of two teenagers who live in the remote town of Cayuga New Mexico in the 1950s. Fay and Everett are two sides of the same coin in a way. One of them is a sweet and innocent switchboard operator who just wants a better shot at life than she thinks she deserves. The other is a sarcastic and fast talking radio operator who wants out of the small town.
They seem to both be given a chance when a mysterious signal comes through the switchboard one night. Leading to a strange phone call with a man named Billy who tells them to research deeper. This leads to an even stranger turn of events as they try to research the mysterious sound.
Tale as Old as Conspiracy Theories
When it comes to storytelling, this film does it masterfully. From the get go, you want to know the end of the mystery that the movie sets up. The constant sense of tension. And the unknown is a fantastic driving force to move the film forward.
Where the story really shines is how it approaches the mystery surrounding the signal. They don’t bombard you with exposition, the film relies on the story told by Billy and viewers own imagination to piece it together. You have to make up your own mind about what exactly the signal is, even when the conclusion hits, you’ll be on the edge of your seat.
Of course, this would mean nothing if the acting was garbage or unconvincing. Luckily, Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz turn in fantastic performances as the two leads. Their portrayal is completely believable, they balance the different emotions phenomenally well.
How this movie also shines is in the absolutely stellar cinematography and dialogue. Dialogue in this film is pretty constant and long. It’s very clear that writers James Montague and Craig W. Sanger took a lot of inspiration from writers like Tarantino. Characters talk for several minutes at a time, seemingly about nothing. But it feels completely natural and flows beautifully.
Hand in hand with that is the film’s constant reliance on long takes. Dialogue scenes are almost never intercut with anything else. Either relying on slow zooms to drag out the tension, or moving long takes to make sure the timing is never unintentional.
Best usage of this technique is when the film establishes how close together the buildings in Cayuga are. The camera moves from Fay’s (McCormick’s character) work, out the door, through the gymnasium where the film begins and to the radio tower. All in one single camera movement that establishes the size of the town and where our characters are in one move.
It’s a phenomenal usage of technique that I do not think I’ve ever seen done before. Movements like this are common enough with the footage sped up or using aerial views, but this feels far more personal.
If we had to nitpick one thing in this film, it would be the weird Twilight Zone cuts with the old 50’s TV. We understand why it’s in there, and it is a cool little nod and fun way to increase tension, but it throws the film off. In any other film it might feel a little more warranted, this just felt weird.
The Vast of Night is one of the best SciFi thrillers made in the last 5 years. With terrifically convincing performances, impeccably written dialogue and phenomenal camera work. Amazon has knocked it out of the park with this film, and we cannot recommend it enough.