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WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for the entire story of The Vast of Night.
Are we alone? Such is a question that countless works of science fiction have been considering for decades, and The Vast of Night, which premiered on Amazon Prime on May 29, is one of the latest films to provoke that concept. However, while the ending of the movie seems to give us an answer of its own, it also leaves us searching for more answers.
The feature debut of director Andrew Patterson, from a screenplay by James Montague and Craig W. Sanger, The Vast of Night is set in the late 1950s and takes place in the fictional small town of Cayuga, New Mexico, on a night when teenage switchboard operator Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) and her friend, talented radio DJ Everett Sloan (Jake Horowitz) hear a sound over the airwaves that plunges them into an ever encompassing investigation. Despite their initial suspicions, every clue they stumble upon contradicts what they believe. What they come to eventually discover is unlike anything they could have imagined.
Just what is it that happens to them as a result of their discovery, exactly, and furthermore, what it does it mean? Not just for them, however, but for their town... or even the world? To find out this, and more, let us look deep into The Vast of Night.
What Happens At The End Of The Vast Of Night?
At approximately the 80-minute mark is when The Vast of Night reaches its peak of intensity. Every strange signal interference, eye-opening conversation with supposed witnesses, and updates from loved ones about “something in the sky” has brought Everett, Fay, and her toddler sister to the backseat of Gerald (Mark Banik) and Bertsie’s (Cheyenne Barton) car on a chase toward the unidentified object, which Fay says her friend described the object over the phone as “round.”
Curious about an earlier conversation Fay and Everett had with an elderly woman named Mabel Blanche (Gail Cronauer) who claimed to have insight on the recent phenomena, Gerald and Bertsie ask to hear the recording, which begins to play some inconceivable jargon Mabel had spoken prior to the interview. The woman had explained that speaking those words aloud seemed to put her now missing son into a trance-like state, just like the effect the recording is having on the couple in the front seat, as Gerald looks up to the sky and away from the road, inciting pleas from Fay and Everett to snap out of it.
After just barely dodging oncoming traffic, the younger trio promptly exits the vehicle once it stops and head into a nearby wooded area when they come across an open view of the sky through the trees above, revealing that, to quote Everett, “They’re here,” in reference to the visitors they have been expecting. He and Fay, with her sister in her arms, continue to run desperate for safety, only to find themselves paralyzed in shock from the unmistakable sight of flying saucers, with the mothership floating right above them.
Meanwhile, the night’s basketball game appears to have ended as the attendees shuffle out of the school gym, breaking the silence that had encompassed the town for much of the night. A final shot at the field reveals that Everett, Fay, and her sister are gone and all that remains is their footprints and the tape recorder.
What Does The End Of The Vast Of Night Mean?
If there is one thing I believed we can be sure of about the conclusion of The Vast of Night, Everett, Fay, and her sister were abducted, but without much else revealed. Of course, there are infinite possibilities as to where they were taken and what becomes of them, but the movie does not seem too concerned about that aspect and, quite frankly, neither am I, as it seems intentionally ambiguous. What I am concerned about is the “why?”
The first thing to keep in mind is that the story happens all in one night (and in real-time) as a high school basketball game is taking place, at which much of the local populace is in attendance, ultimately distracted from the unusual events to come. Everett and Fay, however, have no choice but to discover the ominous sound, due to having occupations in which audio is key, eventually plunging them into the increasingly unnerving investigation. Said investigation both incites intrigue and doubt from our heroes, with caller Billy (Bruce Davis) claiming he witnessed the spacecraft that caused the sound keeping Everett’s interest, but he loses faith after Mabel Blanche’s story of her son’s supposed alien abduction, which soon proves to be, quite possibly, the most useful information they may have received.
In fact, taking the woman’s story seriously may have prevented Everett from triggering Gerald and Bertsie’s trance with the gibberish on the recording, leading Everett and Fay to walk right into their own alien abduction, which may have been exactly what the aliens wanted. Everett and Fay heard a sound they were not meant to hear, their curiosity got the best of them, and this was the consequence. However, all that matters from that moment is the unrevealed aftermath.
The unwitting citizens Cayuga will probably have questions about the three children’s whereabouts, but may never get an answer, which is just how the aliens want it. Even if the tape recorder, the only tangible evidence of the truth, is found, it will not be taken seriously, just like Everett failed to take Mabel seriously. The reason why is in the time setting.
How Does The Vast Of Night Reflect Its Cold War Era Setting?
We are literally brought into the world of the movie through a 1950s era television depicting the story about to unfold as an episode of a fantasy anthology series called Paradox Theater. That is only the first clue that suggests The Vast of Night aims to pay tribute to the classic, original run of The Twilight Zone. More so than the sci-fi spectacle that follows, what really surely earns the film Rod Serling’s approval beyond the grave is how it captures what the series did best, and more effectively than most imitators have tried as of late: social commentary.
One of the film’s most prescient themes is paranoia: a concept frequently associated with the Cold War-era, during which The Vast of Night takes place, as the fear of Soviet infiltration was fervent. In fact, the ominous radio interference initially causes Everett to suspect Russian surveillance which, to modern day citizen, is laughably predictable, but is an authentic reflection of the general perception of things things at the time. Yet, there is another theme that runs deep throughout the film, which I believe the genre-specific subject matter does an ever more brilliant job touching on: privilege.
The most potent example of this is during Billy’s testimony, when he mentions his belief that he was chosen to observe the alien spacecraft because as a person of color, like everyone else selected to witness the discovery, his word was more likely to be ignored. Everett’s ignorance of take Mabel’s story (the words of a lonely, elderly woman, at that) further accentuates the concept of the voices who are often left unheard and sheds more light on the reason for Everett and Fay’s abduction: they had privilege that made them a threat to the aliens’ inconspicuousness. Billy and Mabel, however, are probably safe from abduction because the aliens are likely safe from whatever information they would be able to provide.
The truth behind Everett and Fay’s disappearance may never be revealed - not for a lack of information, but a skewed perception of truth and logic. Thus, for the people of Cayuga, and the world, the concepts of alien invaders will remain a figure of obscurity, which leads us to the final question surrounding The Vast of Night.
Is The Vast Of Night Really An Alien Movie?
With a plot involving the discovery of extra-terrestrials, it would be easy to categorize The Vast of Night in the same vein as something like Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Independence Day. However, with all due respect to those movies, that may be doing this film a bit of a disservice.
The film is as much about aliens as The Walking Dead is about zombies or The Witch is about witchcraft or Hereditary is about weird cult stuff. All of those things, while important to the overall plot, are merely a backdrop or a vessel, if you will, through which the true purpose behind the story can be projected, which the previously mentioned Cold War-era themes and symbolism in The Vast of Night hold a candle to. The Walking Dead is a show about the loss of humanity, The Witch is an allegory for the loss of innocence, and Hereditary is a grueling meditation of grief, much like how The Vast of Night is a grounded exploration of ignored social injustices through the lens of fantasy and, not to mention, a beautifully realized 1950s aesthetic.
Overall, The Vast of Night does not necessarily want you to keep your eyes on peeled on what may be lurking in the sky. Perhaps, however, it does want you to keep your ears open and listen to what needs to be heard. It could save you, or someone else.
What do you think the abduction of Everett and Fay at the end of The Vast of Night is meant to symbolize, or do you simply think it is the inevitable consequence of an astonishing discovery in a story that is pure entertainment? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check back for more updates on the word-of-mouth sci-fi hit, as well as more in-depth explanations to the endings of your favorite movies, here on CinemaBlend.