A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Vast of Night is a low-budget sci-fi movie set in the 1950s about a mysterious sound broadcast that could indicate an alien visit. Teens -- especially main character Everett (Jake Horowitz) -- smoke cigarettes throughout. No violence is really shown, but there are hints and suggestions of it, as well as spoken stories about vaguely scary/threatening things. Sex isn't an issue, except for a story about a woman getting pregnant out of wedlock. Language is infrequent but does include single uses of "f--k" and "goddamn." This is an exciting debut feature, and it's highly recommended for adventurous movie fans 13 and up.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In THE VAST OF NIGHT, it's the 1950s in a small town in New Mexico. Fast-talking Everett Sloan (Jake Horowitz) helps set up the sound equipment for the big high school basketball game before starting his shift as a radio DJ. Fellow student Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) -- who works as a telephone switchboard operator -- walks a bit with him, enlisting his help in operating her new tape recorder. At work, Fay hears a weird sound over the phone and asks Everett for his opinion. He plays the sound on the air and gets a call from an ex-military man named Billy (Bruce Davis), who claims he heard the same sound once before. Billy hints that something out of the ordinary is going on and that there may be a tape at the home of Mabel Blanche (Gail Cronauer) that will provide further clues. So Everett and Fay race there, where Mabel tells them a harrowing story. And time may be running short.
Is it any good?
An incredible debut feature, this micro-budget sci-fi movie boasts innovative, exhilarating filmmaking; clever, spooky storytelling; and layers of relevant themes. Written by James Montague and Craig W. Sanger and directed by Andrew Patterson (all first-timers), The Vast of Night is inspired in part by The Twilight Zone. It even includes a Rod Serling-like opening narration, as well as certain shots presented as if on a badly tuned, fuzzy black-and-white TV screen. Other scenes consist of impressively long traveling shots filled with rapid-fire dialogue; other long, deceptively complex takes simply resting on an actor's face; and pulse-pounding sequences of racing from one place to another as time ticks away.
The filmmakers' technical prowess and creativity in suggesting a sci-fi story using mainly sound and dialogue recalls other landmark debuts, specifically Reservoir Dogs, Pi, Following, and Primer. But the characters in The Vast of Night are also appealing and memorable. Everett is a rapid-patter, chain-smoking nerd; he's an outcast, but he's cool with that. And Fay is energetic and breathless, dreaming of her own bright future, even though -- as a woman in the '50s -- her choices are limited. The movie even manages a subtle comment on race via the phone call from Billy, a Black character who's never seen. Smarts and technical wizardry aside, the movie also tells an amazing story at just the right pace, with just the right punch. Don't miss it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Even though we never see them, are the aliens in this movie scary? Friendly? Why do you think movies about aliens are so appealing/interesting?
Why do you think cover-ups (or lying and dishonesty) are so often a big part of alien stories? Is it ever right to tell a lie?
What kind of job does Fay hope to get later in life? What opportunities would a woman in the 1950s have? How have things changed since then?
- On DVD or streaming: May 29, 2020
- Cast: Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz, Bruce Davis, Gail Cronauer
- Director: Andrew Patterson
- Studio: Amazon Studios
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Space and Aliens
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: brief strong language
- Last updated: May 28, 2020
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