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(Happy belated Easter! Yesterday was sadly my first missed day of the month, beset by end-of-term homework. Even so, I am back for Day 5 of NaPoWriMo, for which the prompt suggested writing a poem in the same shape as another and with the same first letters of each line. I chose the tranquil “Pippa’s Song” by Robert Browning and gave it a dark mirror image.)

The hour is late,
And morning still far;
Mute are the breezes,
The crickets stock still.
The hush is a weight,
The wait black as tar.
Gently it freezes
And swallows the will.

MPA rating:  PG-13

For every special-effects-laden blockbuster in the science fiction genre, there is a small-scale gem waiting to be discovered. Directed and self-financed by first-time filmmaker Andrew Patterson, The Vast of Night feels like the type of modest genre piece that Spielberg might have made in his early days. Two 1950s teenagers, the switchboard operator Fay (Sierra McCormick) and radio disc jockey Everett (Jake Horowitz), go about their jobs one night in small-town New Mexico but are intrigued by a mysterious sound picked up by their equipment, leading them to a potentially extraterrestrial source.

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Even apart from the supernatural elements, there’s so much to love about the look and feel of The Vast of Night, from its tightly written script and smooth direction (including an awe-inspiring tracking shot to rival much bigger budgets) to the quaint period detail and dark atmospheric lighting. It treads carefully around the idea of aliens, its protagonists curious but skeptical along the way, as if the strangeness they encounter truly is bewildering rather than just a movie plot point. The film stumbles a bit toward the end with its unfortunate lack of closure, but the Twilight Zone-ish story is still a highly engrossing watch.

Best line: (Mabel Blanche, an alien believer) “I think at the lowest level they send people on errands and play with people’s minds. They sway people to do things and think certain ways – so that we stay in conflict, focused on ourself – so that we’re always… cleaning house, or losing weight, or dressing up for other people. I think they get inside our heads and make us do destructive things, like drink and over-eat. I’ve seen good people go bad, and smart people go mad.”

Rank:  List Runner-Up

© 2021 S.G. Liput
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