I didn’t know anything about this indie film when I sat down to watch it on Amazon Prime; someone recommended it to me on Twitter when I asked about monster movies I might have missed. It turns out, there aren’t really any monsters in this movie, at least not like you’d expect, but it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while. When it was over, we just let the tv be… silent. Nothing we could put on next would have topped the feeling created by the end of The Vast of Night anyway.
It’s set in the 1950s, in Cayuga, New Mexico, which isn’t a real town but is a nod to Rod Serling, who spent a lot of his life here on Cayuga Lake (where I live, too). There are a few more overt gestures to establish this as an original-series Twilight Zone episode, but I think they actually detract from the movie. If you go in thinking it’s 90 minutes of old-school TZ, you’ll be expecting something less subtle, more neatly wrapped up. The Vast of NIght is more serious than that. Maybe it’s the effect I’d have gotten if I had seen TZ as it originally aired, unsullied by decades of all the knock-offs and commentary that enveloped Serling’s show over the years. Maybe, if I saw a TZ episode in the 1959, late at night, in the dark, in a world where I didn’t have the internet or cable tv or even regular access to a vast library of science fiction.
But The Vast of NIght manages to take a small town, a tiny cast, and tiny budget, and turn them into something deeply affecting. Mysterious things happen in small towns, in the middle of nowhere, at night, when everybody’s off at a party or a sporting event… sometimes you get questions that’ll never be answered. Do yourself a favor: don’t try to solve this one before you watch it.