The Vast of Night

*** Much as the pandemic has wrought havoc upon distribution schemes, few films have ever been so perfectly pitched for both drive-in showings and isolated streamings as The Vast of Night. Opening on a Friday night in 1950s Cayuga, New Mexico, where seemingly everyone in the small fictional town is headed to the high school gym to cheer on the basketball team. Except for sciencey bobby soxer Fay (Sierra McCormick), who discovers an odd electronic burbling on the local telephone switchboard and enlists radio DJ Everett (Jake Horowitz' take on a swaggering A/V club alpha) to hunt down its origins. This is a period piece, but for all the painstakingly curated Cold War era trappings, there's more than a whiff of the '80s indie auteur heyday. The heightened strangeness of a pulsing insularity veers decidedly Lynchian while the restless camerawork and supra-distinct regionalism-stuffed dialogue smacks of early Coen brothers. Alas, though Andrew Patterson's cinematic debut remains uniformly gorgeous, a wispy narrative can't quite sustain that initial tone of white-knuckled suspense as a genre-busting rabbit hole that turns into a Cloverfield-ish mystery box. But the lingering dread of the unseen and unknowable perseveres, nonetheless. For a feature effectively premiering via the Amazon age of ubiquity, The Vast of Night thrusts suspicions squarely upon our supposed mastery of instantaneous communication and wrings fear from a moment of static. PG-13. JAY HORTON. Amazon Prime.