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Indie Film 'The Vast of Night' Is a Masterpiece

Janeen Mathisen

Posted on June 6, 2020 20:05

4 users

With hypnotic camera work, riveting characters, and a wholly unique approach to aliens, this indie film shouldn't be missed.

The Vast of Night, a riveting indie sci-fi mystery, is newly released on Amazon Prime. This film demands the attention of your ears as well as your eyes; every line of dialogue supports its fantastic characters and tension-filled plot. Missing even a single line could be detrimental. The film bleeds atmosphere and tension unlike any other, with hypnotic camera work, immersive audio, and a wonderfully tangible atmosphere.

A peaceful night choruses with crickets in a small, 1960s town as energetic Faye and her smart-aleck friend Everett leave their school’s basketball warmup, which served as their rendezvous and as the audience’s introduction to their small-town world. From the very first moment, everything and everyone in The Vast of Night is instantly believable; these aren’t actors but high-school friends living their lives and discussing various interests during some impressively uninterrupted shots. Faye and Everett are dynamic, layered, and — notably — different from one another. Too often, blockbuster flicks lazily spit out paper-thin characters who melt together into ridiculously inept hive minds due to scriptwriters’ incompetence. But not here. Faye and Everett are blazing fires of originality, their personalities made diverse, strong, and iron-tight by meticulous scriptwriters. Half the plot’s tension of discovering aliens comes from wondering how they’ll handle it — and the other half comes from director Andrew Patterson’s riveting presentation.

Lengthy shots that hold and follow bring the town to life as Andrew Patterson does something incredibly rare: he lets the atmosphere, and his characters, breathe. This breathing room creates believability, and therefore, tension. Screen time others spend on damp comedy or ubiquitous explosions instead allows for the blossoming of a quiet night, the stale stillness of a cluttered office, or the soliloquies tragedy of a backstory to unfold. This is a film that takes its time. A jaw-dropping single-take across town, into the school, through the gymnasium and out again ratchets up the tension while displaying the scale of the town under threat. Constant radio garble in an early scene provides an aural undercurrent creating unease and dread. Sharp, fast cuts and the sudden loudness of otherwise quiet noises are clever, subversive scare tactics — the sophisticated sibling to the overused, common jump scare.

The Vast of Night brims with slow-paced, majestic confidence. Andrew Patterson does not compromise for others but tells his story his way, including a Twilight Zone-esque framing device and stretches of black to let the audience’s imaginations fill the gaps when important information is revealed. His two main characters are refreshing, capable, original, and deep. Its delicate mastery and the unexpected ending make it worth hearty recommendations and many viewings.

Sometimes restrictions — in this case, financial — can lead to new creative avenues, resulting in fantastic and surprising experiences. That is exactly what Andrew Patterson did with his subtle masterpiece, The Vast of Night.

Janeen Mathisen

Posted on June 6, 2020 20:05

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Also this week: Indie sci-fi film ‘The Vast of Night’ premieres on Amazon Prime.

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