The Surprise Sci Fi Movie That S Killing It On Amazon Prime Video

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Amazon's Prime Video streaming service is carving out a reputation for itself as the premiere stop for quality sci-fi content. Between recent original series like Upload and Tales from the Loop and strategic acquisitions like The Expanse, it's a good time to be an Amazon subscriber with a geek streak.

The surprise hit currently burning up the charts on Amazon Prime Video certainly fits into this pattern. It's called The Vast of Night, a 2019 sci-fi film that sadly never had the chance to reach the wide audience that it deserved in theaters. Set in the 1950s in New Mexico, The Vast of Night centers around a switchboard operator named Fay Crocke and a radio DJ called Everett. When the two teenagers discover a strange audio frequency, they team up to investigate its origins.

James Montague and Craig W. Sanger co-wrote The Vast of Night, which is the directorial debut of Andrew Patterson. With a keen eye and a unique approach to directing, Patterson demonstrates serious cinematic chops. It's no wonder the movie won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at Slamdance and was a runner-up for People's Choice at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Audiences and critics don't always agree about the quality of a new movie, but The Vast of Night is already a unanimous crowd-pleaser. Peter Rainer of KPCC's FilmWeek said:

"It's remarkably sharp, funny, and ominous. A terrific debut."

Mark Kermode at The Guardian agreed with that assessment, adding:

"That a film with such an apparently familiar narrative can keep us this intrigued is a credit to the filmmakers, particularly Patterson, from whom we should expect to hear much more in the future."

James Berardinelli of ReelReviews similarly emphasized the quality of the film's storytelling, even in the absence of eye-burning visual effects, saying:

"It's a stark reminder that ideas are more important than production budgets in crafting compelling science fiction."

Now that streaming audiences have the opportunity to consume Patterson's creation en masse, the verdict is officially in: The Vast of Night is a triumph. It's a little counter-intuitive, but so many sci-fi films fail because of their bloated budgets. An over-reliance on the dazzling visual effects often comes at the expense of plot and character development, but Patterson is clearly a filmmaker who understands that story is everything.

While The Vast of Night isn't a horror film, it does have plenty of tense moments and a pervasive sense of unease.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Patterson opened up about the spooky tales that influenced his film, beginning with the Kecksburg Incident of December 1965. He explained:

"A lot of the plot for Everett, the DJ character, was inspired by the mystery surrounding a situation called the Kecksburg Incident, where a car-sized, acorn-shaped device dropped out of the sky and a local DJ started getting calls."

Residents of the small town in Pennsylvania believed that debris ended up in the woods, causing U.S. military members to perform a sweep. Astronomers verified the streak in the sky and seismographs recorded the sonic booms that occurred, but the Air Force officially stated that nothing was found. Describing the incident, Patterson added:

"There's a part of the Kecksburg mythology where they went and looked at the trees where this item, this acorn thing, smashed down, and the branches are still broken in ways that indicate something very forceful ripped through. We wanted that in our movie."

Other true-life events that inspired The Vast of Night were the disappearances of three teenagers that weren't solved until 44 years after the fact. In 1970, Jimmy Williams, Thomas Michael Rios, and Leah Gail Johnson went missing from Sayre, Oklahoma, just a year after three other adults from the area vanished without a trace.

Law enforcement finally solved the disappearances in 2013, using new sonar equipment to discover both trios' cars submerged in a reservoir near the town. Patterson said:

"Both cars were found right next...to each other, under 12 feet of water, with all the skeletons of the missing parties accounted for...That was an important anecdote for me, just knowing that things like this do happen and they have very logical explanations."

Clearly, Patterson pulled a lot of inspiration from the world around him. If The Vast of Night ushers in a new age of plot-driven science fiction storytelling like many believe it might, then the future of the genre will be a bright one indeed. Watch the video to learn about The Surprise Sci-Fi Movie That’s Killing It On Amazon Prime Video!

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