Smart indie sci-fi and love letter to ‘50 sci-fi B-movie The Vast Of Night has arrived on Amazon Prime after touring the festival circuit. It’s a clever film-within-a-film that’s framed as an episode of fictional Twilight Zone-style anthology ‘Paradox Theater’ which plays with genre tropes, as fast-talking DJ Everett (Jake Horowitz) and perky switchboard operator Fay (Sierra McCormick) attempt to solve the mystery surrounding a rogue audio broadcast they discover the night of the town’s big basketball game.
But what actually went down and where are we left at the end? Or indeed, “What’s the tale, Nightingale?” as Everett might say. Here’s our breakdown.
What was the audio broadcast?
It’s conversations between spaceships and it’s been going on for years! Billy (Bruce Davis), the guy who calls into the radio station after Fay and Everett broadcast the sound recognizes it from when he was in the military.
He tells the two that he was in a special detail where he was charged with taking on covert missions he didn’t truly understand and that one involved him digging a massive hole with walls and a concrete floor at an unknown remote location which housed various bunkers and labs and testing facilities (think Area 51). Then at some point something massive was put inside the hole covered with a tarp. That “something” was smooth and bigger than a plane and was broken, according to Billy. Billy and the others were told to build a ceiling for the hole and then to leave, at which point the radio started playing and it was the same sound.
He recalls a later incident too where army trucks were transporting bits of something and the same sound was audible on the radio after.
What we can deduce from Billy’s call is that the military is well aware of the alien space ships and have presumably been either trying to shoot them out of the sky, or discovered ones that had crash landed and are carrying out tests. That the sound played after burying the ship could be an indication that they can’t actually be destroyed (or not by being walled up at least).
Billy reports that after this event he got sick with a lung condition brought on by some sort of radiation poisoning (as did his friend). This could suggest that ships, or those in them have some sort of defense mechanism. On the other hand it could just be an implication that the ships are nuclear powered—the movie is set in the ’50s where nuclear threat was very present following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
What’s that strange chant that Mabel Blanche does?
Mabel Blanche (Gail Cronauer) is the woman Fay and Everett visit who calls into the station saying she has information. She gives a long monologue which begins with the strange disappearance of all of the passengers on a train but one—a woman who jumped off. This woman chanted strange words in her sleep, then the next day crawled out of a window and stole a horse (she was nicknamed The Old Horse Witch!).
Later Mabel has a son, who at 10 months old starts chanting the same things. When her son is four, Mabel hears a sound like “a giant windmill” and finds her son staring out the window, transfixed. She reads the chant to him and he settles. Then when he is nine she senses something out there once again. Her son walks out into the night and vanishes.
What we learn from Mabel is that the chant is some sort of communication from the alien ships that affects people subconsciously and that when it is spoken, recipients close their eyes and raise their faces to the sky.
Mabel lays out what she thinks is going on—though remember, this doesn’t mean she’s right. She says she thinks the aliens are communicating with people subliminally all the time and influencing their bad decisions. The aliens are responsible for people drinking and overeating, making “good people go bad and smart people go mad,” and are even responsible for wars and global conflicts. Why? We have no idea, but this theory does fit nicely with the 1950s paranoia themes of the movie.
What’s the alien’s MO?
If Billy and Mabel are to be believed the aliens have a few patterns.
- They chat to each other from right up in outer space and just a few hundred feet from Earth
- They stay away from major cities
- They pick a night where most of the town is gathered in one place
- They like to abduct people who are alone
- When they come, they don’t stick around long
What happened to Bertsie and Gerald?
These are the friends of Everett and Fay who are driving with them when Everett plays the tape of Mabel saying the chant. We see both of them go into a trance—eyes closed, face to the sky—and they almost crash the car. Bertsie (Cheyenne Barton) comes round first but neither she nor Gerald (Mark Banik) seem to especially remember what happened after Fay, Everett and Fay’s niece Maddy jump out of the car.
Do they get abducted by the alien ships? It’s not confirmed but we think it’s pretty likely they do, following the pattern of Mabel’s son and given they are not at the game and in a remote location.
What happened to Everett, Fay and Maddie?
The three end up together in a field having jumped out of Bertsie and Gerald’s car. They look up in the sky and they finally get a very clear view of the alien ships. Everett holds Fay and Maddie and they are now almost like a de facto family.
The three vanish and we later follow their footsteps which cut off abruptly, just like those of Mabel’s son.
The aliens are not identified as benevolent or malevolent—although Mabel’s theory would have them as malevolent. We understand they talk to people in their sleep via radio waves and that they abduct them sometimes but Mabel at least seems to be under the impression that her son is still alive. What happens after the stragglers of Cayuga are swept up into the vast of night and the towns folk exit the basketball game to find they have vanished? For that we’ll have to wait for ‘The Vast Of Night 2,” or indeed the next episode of Paradox Theater. Because lest we forget, the action we are watching is all just a spooky episode of a TV show and not real at all. Or is it? (No, it isn’t).
The Vast Of Night is available on Amazon Prime now.