In the decades following World War II, our planet seemed to trade one impending apocalypse for another. In America, the Cold War bubbled beneath every thought with nukes hanging in the air ready to drop. We attempted life and did our best to ignore the certainty of their inevitable rain. The threat tainted everything, but life kept ticking.
The Vast of Night laces this very real terror with twisting sci-fi dread, and filmmaker Andrew Patterson utilizes every cinematic tool at his disposal to ratchet an already tense environment. Opening as dusk spreads across Cayuga, New Mexico, a local DJ (Jake Horowitz) uses his station’s equipment to capture the audio of a local high school basketball game. The project is interrupted when he stumbles upon a mysterious signal traveling across the town’s telephone lines. With the aid of his talkative friend (Sierra McCormick), the two curious investigators descend into a dimension of imagination akin to The Twilight Zone. Are we alone? Is the enemy at our doorstep? Hope for humanity appears dim.
Our own Meg Shields caught The Vast of Night at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month and dubbed it a “home run debut” from Patterson that acts as “a magic trick” with inescapable sound design that dares to unfold in real-time and deliver one of the most impressive long-takes in recent memory. Since its premiere at TIFF, Amazon Studios snatched up the flick and have now brought the experience to Fantastic Fest. If that’s not enough confidence for you, the mad minds over at Mondo have given the film their specialty print treatment, and we’ve got the first look.
The print comes courtesy of graphic designer and Robert Altman maniac the Midnight Marauder, and you can find nearly all of The Vast of Night within its 24 x 36 frame. Two faces stare into the unknown; their beings disintegrating within a distortion of noise. Light from the sky beams through the dusk, highlighting the WOTW radio tower. Our future resides in its source. Nothing good. The Cold War was a black and white terror. We’re the good guys. They’re the bad guys. It’s Us vs. Them time. Rod Serling sure as hell would have hung this print above his mantle, so you might as well do the same in his stead.
The Vast of Night belongs on your must-watch list. A new voice has arrived in Patterson, and we should take notice. The film offers sweeping cinematography that takes pleasure in confusing your eye — how the hell did they do that? Was that a drone shot? Nope. That particular magic trick was accomplished via go-kart, folks. It’s the kind of absurd ingenuity that would give Sam Raimi pause. Then layered over the frame is a collision of audio ranging from warped signals running across phone lines, old-time radio jibberish, archival recordings ripped from the library, and droning interviews with characters supposedly in the know. Finally, the dialogue fires over everything, delighting the ear as the characters race for answers, and find only more questions.