Film Review: The Vast of Night

As enjoyable as The Vast of Night is, the familiarity of the story makes me a little bummed that it feels more like a Monsters or 10 Cloverfield Lane in commitment to unabashedly diving into the paranormal, as opposed to fully sinking closer to Signs or Super 8 on the sliding scale.

Basic Synopsis: The New Mexican night is dark and full of possible extraterrestrial terrors.

First Things First: If you read my blurb about A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night in our recent Suggestion Box then you’ll know that I have trouble enjoying black and white films that don’t play up the strong contrast, instead losing the sharpness of the image to the muddier middle values of the greyscale. And though The Vast of Night isn’t a black and white film, it makes the choice early on to have the darkest color of the image be a sepia leaning dark brownish grey, instead of a truly saturated black. And I hated it.

Brief Thoughts: For better or worse, The Vast of Night plays out like a much longer (and far better scored) dramatization of the types of stories I’ve heard countless times on the various paranormal podcasts I listen to. On the one hand, the slow burn, drawn out suspense of what may be happening in this small town kept me hooked as the story mostly progresses in real time, carried brilliantly by Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz; on the other, not a lot happens to make this film stand out from the numerous comparable stories of high strangeness I’m all too familiar with. I was definitely invested as I watched the eerie night unfold, but with each passing minute my hope for and expectation of a big payoff continued until it got to the point that little could be done to create a satisfying conclusion to adequately cap off the journey to get there.

Favorite On Subject Line: “Free will is impossible with them up there.” It hits me right in my ET slandering heart.

Favorite Off Subject Line: “My mom says you can stash hairpins anywhere and one day you’ll be glad you did it.” My sister likes to stash hers on the floor.

Biggest Complaint: As I mentioned above in “First Things First,” The Vast of Night commits to some choices that kept me at arms length a lot of the time. The first being the lack of true black in the images, the second being cutting the screen to black so that no visuals accompanied the audio a couple times (something that works when it forces the film’s audience into the position of a listener tuning into Everett’s radio show, but not when it happens without an obvious purpose), third being the choice to have random scenes of the film framed by a TV screen. I’m assuming this is to draw comparisons to something like The Twilight Zone (a show that I’ve never actually seen an episode of), and had this stuck to the very beginning of the film I wouldn’t be mentioning it now. But this framing device happened a few times throughout the film, and every time it did I was immediately pulled out of the movie.

Final Thoughts: The Vast of Night was a fun experience that definitely gets the recommendation from me for anyone at all interested in it, but unfortunately it doesn’t set itself apart enough to make me all that interested in ever watching it again.

So what’d you think of The Vast of Night? Be sure to let me know in the comments below or over on twitter, where you can find me at BewareOfTrees.

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