Culture Crash 20-52

Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

I had never heard of the film The Vast of Night until it started cropping up on best-of 2020 lists, but once I realized it was streaming on Amazon Prime, I rushed over to my TV to watch it and was promptly blown away. The Vast of Night is something of an homage to classic episodes of The Twilight Zone, and it tells the story of two teens who come across a mysterious audio frequency and reports of strange happenings one night in 1950s New Mexico.

One of the teens hosts a radio show, while the other runs a phone switchboard. They use their technical expertise and presence on the radio airwaves to begin a search into the origins of the mystery, and the movie speeds by while the audience is completely sucked into the retro sci-fi vibe of the 1950s.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is its first act, which has very little to do with the movie’s plot and everything to do with introducing us to the characters. It’s sort of disorienting, with 1950s jive talk being thrown around at a rapid speed, but it perfectly gets the viewer on the movie’s wavelength just in time for the roller coaster ride to begin.

The movie is the debut feature from director Andrew Patterson and it was made on a shoestring budget of just $700,000, some 521 times smaller than the budget of Avengers Endgame. It uses its limited resources incredibly well, pulling off some spectacular camera shots and relying on its lead performers and several spellbinding monologues to carry audiences through its lean 90-minute runtime.

I don’t want to say to much, but I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you’re looking for a fun and unexpected watch, you won’t do much better than turning on The Vast of Night, now streaming on Amazon Prime.

I’m Evan Rook.