Now available in select theaters and digitally via video-on-demand services is “Sputnik,” a bold new science fiction horror movie from IFC Films. Viewers can get a look at this creepy, unsettling tale of terror either in the good old fashioned movie theater (safely, of course!) or in the comfort of their own home, but you’ll never be comfortable while watching it. And that’s a good thing, for a horror movie!
Set in the 1980s during the Cold War, Russian astronaut Konstantin, played by Pyotr Fyodorov, returns from a space mission that withstands a mysterious incident. The government brings in psychologist Dr. Klimova, played by Oksana Akinshina, to investigate. She discovers a terrible secret – that Konstantin now has an alien parasite living inside him, and it only emerges for an hour around three in the morning. Trying to remove the alien proves impossible, and what’s more, it seems the relationship between the alien and the astronaut may be more symbiotic than parasitic. The army is invested in keeping the two alive, but more in the interest of utilizing the alien as a violent weapon of war.
More than anything, “Sputnik” is an impressive achievement from director Egor Abramenko. It is his first feature film, but you wouldn’t at all be able to tell by watching. His command of the horror atmosphere is top-notch and supported by the work of cinematographer Maxim Zhukov. I’m very interested in seeing what both of them have lined up next. The cold, clinical environment of the army base the movie takes place on is always unnerving and aided by the outstanding lead performances.
The plot echoes that of famous science fiction films of the past from both North American and Russia, most notably Ridley Scott’s landmark “Alien,” and Andrei Tarkovsky’s cerebral epic “Solaris.” High praise, to say the least. While some viewers might see too many derivative elements in such a movie, “Sputnik” finds its own identity with an exciting script and well-crafted visuals.
Grappling with ethical quandary the film is built around makes for engaging viewing and sparks debates with whoever you watch it with. Considering the special effects of the alien are mostly executed through computer-generated imagery, it is an outstanding achievement that the creature looks so credible. One of the keys is the design, which avoids most movie aliens’ cliche looks and delivers a chilling effect when it inevitably shows up each night in the film.
Tense, exciting, dark, and best of all scary, “Sputnik” delivers everything a movie viewer would want from a horror flick. Go into it with an open mind; you’ll find a movie with a high amount of love and care gone into it. Add in the paranoia atmosphere of living in the oppressive communist Soviet Union, and you have a darn good horror/thriller film. Now available to rent from YouTube, Google Play, and Amazon Prime.