The Vast of Night

 

            This is what happens when everybody in town is at the high school basketball game.

Some small town in Texas in the 1950's.  We are introduced to a “Twilight Zone” type television show, and then the camera pans in on the old black-and-white tv, so now we're dwelling in the odd place between reality and fantasy.

            Fay (Sierra McCormick) operates the local switchboard, so she not only knows everybody in town, she likely knows their business, as well.  She seems to have an interest in the local boy, Everett (Jake Horowitz),who Djs the only radio station at night, spinning records and reading ads and wishing he could be at a bigger venue.  They talk to each other on breaks because they seem to be the only ones in town who are not at the high school basketball game.  Or, at least, that's where all their friends are.

            That's why it's especially eerie when both of them hear a funny kind of noise they've never heard before.  Everett asks his listeners (are there any out there?) if anybody else ever heard a noise like that, and he receives a call from Billy, who says that he heard that same noise back when he was in the service.  Except Billy says nobody will believe him because he's black.

            Well, from what we've seen of the townsfolk so far, Billy would definitely be a small minority.  But then another caller, this time to the town switchboard, claims to know exactly where that sound comes from.  Jake and Fay rush to the old lady's house, where Mabel Blanche (Gail Cronauer) weaves this fantastic tale of her nine-year old son who was born on a night when that same strange sound appeared, and what's more, as a small baby, he seemed to know this certain langauge that wasn't English, wasn't Spanish, and wasn't Indian, either.  She even wrote down, phonetically, what a recurring phrase was, but by now Jake and Fay were through listening, because she tries to claim that the “people in the sky” came back and took her son when he was nine years old.  She says that the authorities suspect she killed him, but she swears that isn't true.

            Jack and Faye are nothing if not resourceful.  They manage to find the only tape recorder in town.  They “borrow” a car from a local, figuring that it's faster than the bicylce she also “borrowed.”

The ending invokes everything from “War of the Worlds” (the call letters of the radio station) to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (minus the memorable musical lick).  But after all the “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” iterations, do we really think there's such a thing as a spaceship?  And will it really avoid big cities and curious crowds?  And will it really invite earthling passengers?

            Well, consider “The Vast of Night” a collage of several pieces of old Americana, including an homage to The Outer Limits, and even Alfrd Hitchcock, in the choice of intentionally dissonant music.  It's somehow nostalgic at the same time as newly creative.  Not bad for a low-budget independent film with an unknown cast but a determinedly star-gazing crew.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association