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The ending of The Vast of Night explained

Contains spoilers for The Vast of Night

The Vast of Night is the latest science-fiction movie burning up the charts on Amazon's Prime Video streaming service. Viewers have responded with overwhelming enthusiasm to director Andrew Patterson's maiden cinematic voyage into the unknown, and it's no secret why. The movie is a rarity in genre filmmaking these days: a low-budget project that deals in big ideas. Filmed in a lo-fi style reminiscent of anthology television series like The Twilight Zone, The Vast of Night weaves a quiet, character-driven story that satisfies as a result of its muted approach, rather than in spite of it.

The film stars Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz as Fay Crocker and radio DJ Everett Sloan, respectively. The two 1950s teens are drawn together in their sleepy New Mexico town by an aberrant radio signal of unknown origins. Fay is the first to hear the sound, and she engages Everett's expertise to track down a potential source. While their earliest clues suggest that the signal might have originated from a top-secret military experiment outside the town, their investigation soon leads them to contemplate a less terrestrial explanation.

Presented as an episode of the fictional, Twilight Zone-inspired show Paradox Theatre, The Vast of Night uses its central mystery to cultivate an abiding sense of the uncanny. Instead of jump scares and action set-pieces, the film relies on slow, deliberate reveals to maintain its dramatic tension — right up until the end, that is.

As is the case with so many stories that aspire to such lofty explorations, the final act of The Vast of Night gets a bit convoluted. If you lost track of the plot in those hectic final moments, you're not alone. Here's a breakdown of what happened in the end for Everett and Fay.

Fay and Everett find what they're looking for in The Vast of Night

The Vast of Night enters its final sequence once Fay and Everett follow the signal's trail to the home of Mabel Blanche (Gail Cronauer). Mabel tells the two novice investigators that her son was abducted by aliens at the age of nine. She says that he used to mutter in tongues, a sound that she repeats for Fay and Everett to record. Mabel's theory is that whatever lurks in the skies over Cayuga, New Mexico likes to tinker with people's minds. She thinks aliens use those signals to lure unsuspecting abductees away during large events.

Obviously spooked, Fay and Everett leave Mabel's house ... only to find a patch of burnt trees in the woods. The two look up from the damage to see a UFO flying overhead. We cut to the end of the basketball game at Fay and Everett's high school, then to the empty radio station, then to Fay's tape recorder, abandoned on the ground. 

This final montage clearly leaves tons of open questions for viewers to ponder. Given the eerie events that Fay and Everett experience over the course of the night, one could argue that the UFO overhead is just a figment of their agitated imaginations. That seems like a stretch, however.

For one, the shot of the UFO in the night sky (featured above) is about as unambiguous an image as we get in The Vast of Night. It's pretty hard to write that off as figment of an overactive teenage imagination. Patterson deploys no small amount of subtlety and misdirection to tell his tale, but this UFO is a clear canon shot across the bow.

Secondly, Fay and Everett clearly both see the UFO. Unless you're trying to argue mass hysteria, it's unlikely that two separate people would share an identical hallucination. This leads us to the tragic, yet likely, conclusion that Fay and Everett discovered an actual UFO signal and wound up abducted, per the film's final frame. The abandoned tape recorder is the equivalent of the vanishing footsteps that Mabel reported from the site of her son's abduction. At the end of The Vast of Night, Fay and Everett are both onboard that UFO. The truth is out there.