I know how inconsequential this blog is. Nonetheless, I had a lot to say about The Vast of Night, a fine directorial debut for Andrew Patterson. Then the TypePad compose page crashed when I went to save the post. Now I've got to remember what I wanted to say. This will likely be shorter than the movie deserves.
I seem to have spent a lot of time lately talking about films where it is clear the people behind the movie knew what they were doing, and how comforting that can be. Well, Andrew Patterson knew what he was doing when he made The Vast of Night, and he did it for under a million dollars (reportedly of his own money). He didn't just direct it ... he also co-wrote it, produced it, and edited it, all under pseudonyms. Patterson shows his influences without making the movie a "look what I know" preening session. He works everything together quite smoothly. It has been described as Close Encounters directed by Richard Linklater, and it's easy to see why ... the movie begins with the two main characters walking around chatting, and eventually there's an alien ship. There are also references to old TV (it takes place in 1958, and uses a framing device that suggests we're watching an anthology series that looks a lot like The Twilight Zone). The Vast of Night is also reminiscent of old-time radio, especially in one scene where a caller to a radio show tells a long story and we hear him but don't see him.
The two leads are excellent (Sierra McCormick as a small-town switchboard operator, Jake Horowitz as the local DJ). They help establish the concrete, "real" setting within which the alien story can be told. And special attention should be paid to cinematographer M.I. Littin-Menz, who creates atmosphere on that small budget, while also giving us a fancy long-take through the town that will leave you wondering how they did it. There is also a ten-minute take of the switchboard operator at work ... McCormick is so good you don't think about how hard such a long take must have been for her, and Patterson uses the scene to gradually up the tension.
I was reminded of another first-time director, Gareth Edwards. In 2010, Edwards released Monsters, like The Vast of Night a cheapie that made the most of what it had. Someone noticed ... his next film was Godzilla, the next after that Rogue One, which cleared more than a billion-with-a-b dollars worldwide. There's no telling what's next from Andrew Patterson, but the anticipation will be delicious.