Thursday, July 9, 2020

Amazon’s “The Vast of Night” is the Way Anthology Sci-Fi Should Feel [Review]

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Amazon’s latest new addition to it’s streaming offerings is an intimate 50’s Americana-set science-fiction thriller, “The Vast of Night.” Created by newcomers director Andrew Patterson and writers James Montague and Craig W. Sanger, it manages to accomplish what so many anthology-style tales fail to do – be an extremely well made successor to Rod Serling’s original “Twilight Zones”.

Vast is so closely patterned on the classic series that it even opens zooming into a black and white CRT television with a voice-over monologue setting the scene. Opening in the late 50’s in a small town in New Mexico, it’s like any Summer evening, until the local telephone switchboard operator, Fay Crocker (played by Sierra McCormick), hears a strange noise coming over one of the lines. Taking it to the local radio station DJ, Everett Sloan (played by Jake Horowitz) they begin a hunt which leads them to begin to wonder if the source might not be from Earth.

“The Vast of Night,” photo courtesy of Amazon

It’s a simple setup, but so amazingly well executed to the screen. There’s something about the way the actors go about their professional roles, that they have the vibe of someone who knows the motions they’re going through so well that they’re grounded characters just from the lightest of grace notes. Their reality is juxtaposed in their small town setting – there are buildings and streets, but the town is rendered in a shorthand. It’s like it emerged Brigadoon-like out of the mists of a story being woven by Serling himself. The late-50s era trappings feel natural rather than a forced “look how many period-correct things we can cram into a scene” eye-wink.

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The source of the mysterious sound is almost secondary to Fay and Everett’s investigation and working through the clues and townsfolke who have pieces to add as it begins to fit together.

This is most definitely a stand-alone film, rather than a piece of a longer anthology series, but we could hope that the team continues with more of these tales. So many of the series, from Amazing Stories to the latest attempt at a “Twilight Zone” continuation, fall short. Either the stories or their characters caught up in them never connect with the audience. Rare individual episodes will, but they’re painfully few and far between, where this hits the ground strolling on its way to a destination and never lets up.

The Vast of Night” is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

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