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#TIFF19 Review: The Vast of Night (Midnight Madness)

September 16, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Taking place over a single night, and often unfolding in long takes, The Vast of Night is one heck of a filmmaking debut for first time director Andrew Patterson. The film is set in the 1950s, with the Space Race still in its infancy. While a basketball game goes on at the high school, capturing the attention of a small New Mexico town, local radio DJ Everett (Jake Horowitz) and the young switchboard operator Fay (Sierra McCormick) hear a strange sound coming over the air. It’s a frequency they have never heard before, and when they ask their callers to help identify the sound, they start hearing reports of strange objects floating in the sky and stories about mysterious encounters.

The film opens on a retro TV set and is presented as an episode of a fictional show called Paradox Theatre, which is basically a stand-in for The Twilight Zone, and this eery, old school sci-fi atmosphere that Patterson establishes is one of the most appealing aspects of the film. The impressive production design immerses us in the world of the ’50s in beautifully vivid detail, and the cinematography is also great, including one stunning, continuous tracking shot that many films with a much higher budget wouldn’t even attempt to pull off.

Because this is a film about radio, it’s fitting that The Vast of Night also boasts great sound design, and features several gripping monologues that drum up suspense as characters recount their memories of strange events that have occurred. Storytelling is a big focal point of the film, and the brilliant, sparing use of special effects works to keep the mystery of it all alive. Horowitz delivers a solid performance, and the film also serves as a phenomenal calling card for young actress McCormick, who has a great screen presence and is completely natural throughout the long, unbroken takes. Playing with an evocative and creepy sense of atmosphere that draws us into its world, and making brilliant use of a limited budget, The Vast of Night is an incredible first film that promises great things to come.

Jake Horowitz and Sierra McCormick in The Vast of Night

Public Screenings:

Thursday, September 12th – 11:59 PM at Ryerson Theatre

Friday, September 13th – 11:30 AM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Sunday, September 15th – 9:45 AM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

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