Along with Possessor and Love and Monsters, the UFO movie The Vast of Night was one of only three 2020 sci-fi films to achieve a better than 90% score on the Tomatometer. Set in a small town in 1950s New Mexico (because of course), the movie is a fresh take on an alien contact story, with two young people, Everett and Fay (Jake McCormick and Sierra Horowitz), trying to piece together the mystery of what might be visiting their town, when it may have happened before, and who covered it up. With characters communicating largely via telephone and radio, the tiny town, already cut off from the larger world, seems even more remote.
A true indie endeavor, The Vast of Night was made for only $700,000, and first-time writer/director Andrew Pattison uses every penny judiciously, creating a sense of eerie nighttime isolation and sinister goings-on. Despite the small budget, Pattison’s camera is unmoored, zipping over the rural burg with a sense of headlong freedom, then creeping through a crowded high school gym in an accomplished long take/tracking shot. While critics found the narrative elements somewhat familiar, they praised the talented filmmaking, spooky atmosphere, and fresh aesthetic. “The story of The Vast of Night is nothing particularly special,” wrote Tasha Robinson in Polygon. “The storytelling, though, is spectacular.”