The Vast of Night Parent Guide
This original little film has everything you could want in a science fiction story.
Parent Movie Review
In the sleepy town of Cayuga, New Mexico, the most exciting thing going on is the high school basketball game. But as Everett (Jake Horowitz), the night radio operator, and Fay (Sierra McCormick) are about to discover, far more dangerous things are occurring in the area. A strange electrical signal cutting into the broadcast alerts them that they may be ignorant of the whole truth. Out there, in the vast of night, but within walking distance, a mystery lurks. But there’s nothing in the dark…isn’t there? As Rod Serling would say, “Welcome to the Twilight Zone”.
The Vast of Night is presented within a narrative framework as a TV series on a program called “Paradox Theatre”, with a narrator who sounds oddly similar to the voice of The Twilight Zone. This is tremendous news for me, sinceI have been a fan of The Twilight Zone TV series nearly my whole life. The strange, unsettling plots, the artful black and white shooting, and Serling’s enigmatic narration all combine to create something greater than the sum of their parts. The Vast of Night is a love letter to those classic television mysteries, and it does a wonderful job of recreating their spine-tingling tension.
Set in the fictional town of Cayuga, New Mexico (named for Serling’s production company) in the early 1950s, the film is aesthetically flawless. In the after-hours of this small town, the neon and streetlights shine into the darkness, leaving the characters in a world all their own. The black and white scenes, with a few tweaks, would fit right in on The Outer Limits or Science Fiction Theatre. This film opened in drive-in-theaters (a theatrical release having been sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic), and if there had been one near me, you can bet your grandma’s pearls I’d have seen it there.
This isn’t a film for everybody, though. As with its inspirations, the plot is slow and winding, and doesn’t involve a great deal of action. To quote Serling yet again; “You unlock this door with the key of imagination…beyond it is another dimension: A dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind.” Indeed, some of the movie is presented with a blank screen, leaving you with nothing more than the power of your imagination to bring it to life. I had a great time, but younger viewers may tire of the slower pace and rapid-fire dialogue.
That said, the film is certainly suitable for a younger audience. With one extreme profanity and occasional uses of terms of deity or mild profanity and almost nothing else, this is one of the least problematic films I’ve ever reviewed. There are depictions of teenagers smoking cigarettes, but that was, unfortunately, quite common in the 1950s.
I can’t recall the last time I had this much fun with a movie. The Vast of Night has so many of the things that I want in science fiction, and such wonderful production values, that it’s hard for me to pin down anything I dislike here. Perhaps the best endorsement I can give is that, without playing a single note, the film got the haunting theme from The Twilight Zone stuck in my head. But that’s just me…after all, brilliance is in the eye of the beholder.Directed by Andrew Patterson. Starring Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz, and Gail Cronauer. Running time: 89 minutes. Theatrical release May 29, 2020. Updated May 29, 2020
Watch the trailer for The Vast of Night
The Vast of Night
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Vast of Night rated PG-13? The Vast of Night is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for brief strong language
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: There is one use of extreme profanity and occasional mild profanities and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Teenagers are shown smoking cigarettes.
Page last updated May 29, 2020
The Vast of Night Parents' Guide
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The prototypical novel about contact with strangers from another world is H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, in which humans are faced with an incredible threat in the form of bizarre invaders from Mars.
Many successful authors contributed to The Twilight Zone. Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet), Ray Bradbury (I Sing the Body Electric, Fahrenheit 451), and Rod Serling himself (Patterns: Four Television Plays). Other stories with a similar vibe include The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K Dick, The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe, and The Mist by Stephen King.
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The Vast of Night is presented in the format of a TV show called “Paradox Theatre”, based on The Twilight Zone, episodes of which are available on Amazon Prime and are well worth watching. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark also has a distinct drive-in-movie feel, although with a different theme. If you want a more authentic drive-in experience, films like The Day the Earth Stood Still (the 1951 version, not the one with Keanu Reeves). Super 8 sees an intrepid group of young filmmakers explore an unusual train crash and find that the cause may be much further from home than they ever imagined. Perhaps one of the best known UFO movies of all time is Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. If the long-form cinematography of this film appeals to you, 1917 is shot in such a way that there are no obvious cuts or edits.