By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
When much of the movie takes place in the Vast of the Night, the movie theatre (or your home video setup when it arrives to streaming) better be colour corrected to enjoy the picturesque nuances crafted by director Andrew Patterson and cinematographer M.I. Littin-Menz. Even the use of solid blacks for long moments of dialogue gives a sense of you’re listening to a radio play than a feature length film.
The technical work behind this micro budget film is nothing but short of brilliant. I suspect the cameraman used a drone to create a beautiful long tracking sequence which stretched from one end of a small town to another. The tale, without giving too much away, deals with themes common for the era it’s set in–fear of the cold war and a threat nobody expects.
We’re not talking about what’s happening south of the border either. In Cayuga, New Mexico, all seems normal. The two nerdy teens, a self-assured Everett (Jake Horowitz) who works at the radio station and a very gabby Fay (Sierra McCormick), a switchboard operator, are the focus. Both performers have a sweet chemistry as they try to figure out what’s going on in true Hitchcock fashion. They are very capable of solving the best crimes in ala Nancy Drew too. It’s easy for me to know the outcome because of my enjoyment of this sci-fi suspense genre, but these kids are in the dark until the adults they are in contact with reveal an unsettling truth. To know more, this review is split. Huge spoilers are coming.
If you’re going to see this film blind, then what it builds up to is a nice twist on the classic B movie “invasion” formula. We are not dealing with the aftermath or Invaders from Mars. In what’s presented is like a waking nightmare–you’re partially in control of the events going on. I still cannot fathom whether or not if what I’ve witnessed in my youth was real or not. Yes, I’ve seen a spaceship up close when I was very young and I still can’t recall if that memory was from a lucid dream or not.
This film is about what Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum did not go into great detail about in the movie Independence Day. The suspense is terrific. To frame this film around a fictional Paradox Theatre, a Twilight Zone-style anthology television series, was really unneeded. It can work without.
Unless the theatre is showing the film as it’s intended, part of the illusion is destroyed when transitioning between watching this film like it was from an old 50s television set to a very crisp high resolution digital print. Even when the edges of the television gets cropped because that’s what most theatres do these days, I wished I saw the bleeding edges of a CRT than not. The use of negative space works, but we’re dealing with regular letterbox presentation versus IMAX.
As for these intrepid teens, I’m not expecting they will become The Last Starfighter. The unsettling aspects of what Twilight Zone represents is defined with the last moments of this story, but without Rod Sterling to cap off what happened, something just feels missing.
3½ out of 5