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Posts Tagged ‘alien abduction’

“THE VAST OF NIGHT” My rating: B+ (Now streaming on Amazon Prime)

89 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

The low-budget “The Vast of Night” is like the best episode ever of “The Twilight Zone.” With a dose of “American Graffiti” tossed in.

Unfolding on on fall night in the late 1950s in the tiny burg of Cayuga NM, Andrew Patterson’s film delivers a big dose of weirdness made all the more unsettling by its roots in banal reality.

It’s a Friday night and at the local gymnasium the high school basketball team is getting ready to kick off their season. Everett (Jake Horowitz), a twenty something who operates the local radio station, is setting up a tape recorder so that one of his colleagues can do a play-by-play of the game.

(Actually, the game tape won’t be broadcast until  the next day.  As Everett observes, nobody listens to find out who won — they already know — but to hear the names of their sons spoken through the ether. It’s an example of the minute details exploited so effectively in Patterson and Craig W. Sanger’s screenplay.)

Everett, who is so nerdy he’s actually cool in a Buddy Holly kind of way, won’t watch the game. He has to return to the station for that night’s program of recorded music and call-in commentary.

He’s accompanied on the walk across town by Fay (Sierra McCormick), a 16-year-old in cats-eye spectacles, pony tail and poodle skirt who is Cayuga’s nighttime telephone operator. (For the callow  youths reading this:  There was a time when a phone call to your neighbor required an operator poking wires into sockets on a huge circuit board; naturally a small-town operator knew the dirt on just about everybody.)

Fay is a science nerd who chatters enthusiastically about the articles she’s been reading in popular magazines (one predicts the development of telephones with tiny TV screens; another self-driving cars.)  Everett enjoys playing the role of big-brother/mentor.  They briefly refer to the Soviet Union’s recent success with Sputnik (Cold War paranoia wafts throughout).

Sierra McCormick

Once downtown Fay and Everett settle into their respective chairs and prepare for another boring night.  Heck, virtually every Cayugan is at the game.

And then Fay gets a call…well, not a call so much as a weird mechanical/electrical noise.  This coincides with reports of strange lights in the sky. She transfers the call to Everett, who puts it on the air.

He gets a call-in from Billy (the unseen but excellent Bruce Davis), a former soldier who in a long monologue tells of building a hangar in the desert for some sort of top-secret aircraft.  He recognizes the weird audio signal being aired by Everett as accompanying the strange craft.

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Shane Carruth, ddddd

Shane Carruth, Amy Seimetz in “Upstream Color”

“UPSTREAM COLOR” My rating: B (Opening April 26 at the Alamo Draft House)

96 minutes | No MPAA rating

Those who like their narratives neat, concise and uncluttered had best avoid Shane Carruth’s “Upstream Color.”  It’s a film for those who found Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life” too conventional.

Still, it makes more sense than Carruth’s previous (and first) feature effort, the 2004 time travel oddity ” Primer.”

“Making sense” is a relative thing when dealing with Carruth. Narratively “Upstream Color” defies cateogrization or easy explanation. You could call it science fiction. Or maybe not.

 You could say the movie makes no sense.

And yet it makes sense emotionally.

Here’s what I can say with certainty about the fragmentary story: A young woman named Kris (Amy Seimetz) is abducted and subjected to some sort of mind-control therapy. In a zombie-like state she returns to her home with a flat-voiced handler  (Thiago Martins) who has her memorize Thoreau’s “On Walden Pond.” Kris is told that her mother has been kidnapped and she must come up with a ransom.

When she finally emerges from her stupor she imagines (or is it really happening?) that maggot-like worms are wriggling just under her skin. She is disoriented, lost.

Kris loses her job because of her unexplained absense, and is distressed to find that her bank account has been emptied. She is shown footage of herself making the withdrawl, but remembers none of it.

She harbors a vague sense of having been violated. Her OB/GYN tells her that her sexual organs have been damaged, rearranged, and that she will  never have children.

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