When we get movies to review for Nightmarish Conjurings, it’s usually a free for all, sometimes we have little to go on besides a title, such was the case when I picked THE VAST OF NIGHT. I scored a jackpot picking this film, let me tell you about this gem.
As the movie starts, the visuals are already striking, the lighting is dim, and it’s a Friday night in the small town of Cayuga, New Mexico during the late 1950s. Everyone in town is headed to the high school for tonight’s big basketball game. Everyone except local DJ Everett Sloan, and high schooler/smart girl/band geek/town switchboard operator, both of whom are headed to their respective evening jobs. The shots of the gym are lit in yellow, perfectly mimicking the lighting of the era. The townies are dressed to perfection, the cars are to die for, the lingo is spot on, and it all starts out with an ode to The Twilight Zone.
Long, panoramic shots through the town zig and zag, giving you a true feeling for how small this town really is. There’s a lot of dirt roads, not so many streets, cutscenes look like they are being broadcast on a TV from the 40s, grainy, lots of lines, like a Philco Tandem Predicta, circa 1958. (Did I mention that I scored with this movie? The 1950s are life; the clothes, the cars, the music, Mid Century Modern and Atomic Age design are everything, this flick had me drooling over the aesthetics like it was made for me.)
As our main characters settle in for the evening, Everett in his DJ studio spinning tracks and taking dedications, Fay at her switchboard, everything seems hunky dory, until Faith’s radio (she’s listening to Everett doing his show) gets weird with a strange transmission taking over the airwaves briefly, then the same sound comes in through a call to the switchboard. Faith calls Everett to talk about the odd sounds and suddenly we are Alice down the rabbit hole. With the entire town at the basketball game, Everett and Faith are left to figure things out on their own, asking listeners to call in with theories. Leaving the station and the switchboard to their own defences, these two are off and running in an attempt to find the source of the sounds.
Written by James Montague and Craig W. Sanger, directed by Andrew Patterson (I can’t find anything else by Patterson, and I am about to lose my mind thinking this is his first full-length film), and cinematography by Miguel Ioann Littin Menz, who joined the crew from Chile, where he has had a vast career in movies and TV. Learning that he does cinematography on foreign films makes so much sense when I look back at the feel of this film as I cannot recall the last time a film made me feel like this. The copy I watched did not list anyone for editing, so hopefully, they see this and know that they did a magical job. And because they did a perfect job of clothing such a large cast for the townies heading to the basketball game, and our mains, I have to show Michelle Harvey and Jamie Reed some love, the costuming was impeccable to the era.
Now let’s talk about our mains, Everett and Fay, performed to a T by Jake Horowitz and Sierra McCormick; Jake has the patois of a cool cat that everyone wants to know, the DJ spinning platters at the local radio station. He is so believable in this part. He has some tongue-twisting lines and he does not falter, and plays so well with Sierra’s Fay, a sixteen-year-old with an obvious crush, but who is still able to maintain a conversation and sound like she knows what she’s talking about. She is so believable and passionate as their mystery unfolds. Somebody, please cast them in more movies. They truly made this movie.
THE VAST OF NIGHT made me turn down the lights so I could wrap myself in the perfect darkness created by the team of Patterson and Littin Menz, holding me in its grip for 90 minutes, giving me chills the whole way through. The story written by Montague and Sanger took me back in time and made me fall in love with Everett and Faith, and I want to have this movie’s baby.