If you’re a self-confessed genre nut who’s run out of creepy, alien-infested movies to watch in lockdown, then we may have the solution. Mind-bending B-movie pastiche The Vast Of Night has just landed on Amazon Prime Video, and it’s probably the best sci-fi film of the year.
Set in 1950s New Mexico, it follows Fay (Sierra McCormick) and Everett (Jake Horowitz) – a young switchboard operator and local radio DJ – as they go about their business in the town of Cayuga. However, when the dynamic duo discover a strange audio frequency broadcasting on the air waves, they’re forced to investigate a supernatural presence that suggests the local residents aren’t the only lifeforms in town.
Stuffed with clever camera trickery and honestly mindblowing single-take tracking shots that follow Everett and Fay’s journey across the suburbs – it feels like you’re stalking the pair from street to street – The Vast Of Night is inventive filmmaking of the highest order.
We caught up with Jake Horowitz, who plays Everett in only his second ever named movie role, to find out more.
How’s it going Jake, where are you?
“Hey! I’m pretty good. I’m here in New York at the moment. It’s been crazy. We’re not taking the subway anywhere, just biking around, wearing a mask and trying to stay safe.”
Let’s talk The Vast Of Night – there are some pretty long takes in the film, did you ever fuck up and have to start again?
“I think there were some fuck-ups, but we were lucky that they were in the shorter ones. I definitely had that feeling when you’re in minute five of a long take and you’re like, ‘wow, if I make a mistake right now there’s no going back’.”
The film borrows a lot from classic sci-fi – are there any Easter eggs hidden in it?
“Yes, definitely. The most obvious one is that the radio station is called WOTW, which is obviously War Of The Worlds. A number of people have pointed out that any station that’s west of the Mississippi would have had a K not a W [at the start of its name]. But I’m like, ‘yeah, we know, it’s an Easter egg for a sci-fi movie!'”
“There’s also a family called the Grimaldis which, I think, were the first family to die in Alien?”
Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, actually, but close enough! Were those all in the script?
“Everything was in the script. Another great one is: the town is called Cayuga, which is after The Twilight Zone production company, Cayuga Productions. It was all part of [director] Andrew Patterson’s plan – he always said: ‘It’s a B-movie sci-fi plot that has been seen many times before. The trick is to do it well and ask ourselves, “what would it be like if this really happened?”‘ We wanted to lean into the fact that it’s a plot that we know all too well from other movies in the genre.”
Steven Spielberg is clearly an influence – what’s your favourite movie of his?
“Close Encounters. I’m just thinking about it so much now. I didn’t watch it before we shot The Vast Of Night though. The two movies that I watched for inspiration were Zodiac and All The President’s Men. President’s has that great shot of Robert Redford on the phone, when he discovers [the truth] … and it just sort of zooms in on him. And that was a big inspiration for our own phone scene.”
In The Vast Of Night, the ending is left ambiguous – what’s your reading of it?
“I love that it’s ambiguous. At the heart of the movie is the idea of the unknown and accepting that we don’t know everything. At the beginning, Everett thinks he knows it all, and by the end we really don’t know what’s out there or [what might happen] tomorrow.
You’ve dodged the question there – we have two piles of dust at the end, is that a clue?
“I don’t want to give too much away! I love that shot though, I think the dust is a great clue, in itself. I hear you on the dust.”
Have you ever had any supernatural experiences yourself?
“Hmm, I can’t say that I have… yet. Anything could happen and I don’t want to be the kind of person who doubts it. When it happens I wanna be like ‘I always believed in you!'”
Did you have to do any research into famous UFO sightings?
“Yeah, I did. There were a bunch of famous ones in New Mexico that I read about. But more of the research for me was about listening to the music of the time. My main discovery was Buddy Holly, who I had never really gotten into… There’s a lot of footage on YouTube of [him with] radio DJs and recordings of him.”
You’ve cribbed his look for the film, that’s for sure – have you ever been on live radio yourself?
“I sure did, I robbed him! I’d never been on live radio until last night – and I cursed! I couldn’t believe it. I shouldn’t have done that. I don’t know where it was, it could have been some family show in Middle America and they might have turned it off and never tuned in again.”
You don’t have much of a social media presence – is that purposeful or does somebody need to get fired?
“Yeah let’s fire someone. Let’s fire me, because I’m running it! No, it’s purposeful. It’s never been exactly my thing, but maybe the project will finally come around when my manager says, ‘look, I’m cutting you off unless you pull your finger out.’ Then I guess I’ll do it. Some people are inspired by [social media] and it helps them to connect with [their audience], but for me, it always feels like it takes me out. It makes me nervous, actually, posting.”
Tell me about the Castle Freak remake you’re in – are you a big video nasty buff?
“I had never seen any of those movies before I did that – and then I watched a bunch of them. They’re really cool when you get into them. You start to see this amazing style of gory, balls to the wall, really gutsy filmmaking. The original cast are awesome: Barbra Crampton and Jeffrey Coombs and Stuart Gordon are just this great team. I feel really honoured to be part of that legacy.”
What about Agnes – it looks similar to The Nun, why are religious women so creepy?
“That’s so true! ‘Nunsploitation’ is a constant thing. I guess it’s about this idea that people want to be alone, you know. Part of our idea of nuns is that they choose loneliness, and that lifestyle is fascinating to people. When there’s a lot of old ladies in a horror movie, there tends to be something about to go wrong too.”
What’s the scariest thing you, Jake Horowitz, have seen in real life?
“When I was a kid, we had a very heavy door in the apartment I grew up in. I don’t know what it was made of, but you’d open it and ‘boom’ it would slam shut. One day, my little brother and I we were bringing in groceries and he turned back to pass something to me and the door just came right in [on his hand]. His two fingers were snapped and hanging [limp], bleeding and our mum was parking the car, so it was just me holding and wrapping up his little fingers. I’ll never forget that.”
Was there a supernatural influence, perhaps?
“The ghost didn’t show itself… if it was a ghost. I didn’t see it. But I won’t say it definitely wasn’t that…”