Egor Abramenko's Sputnik features impressive special effects and an even better creature design that elevates the film's lacking story. Think Splice with shady Russian government undertones that make way for a film that's more bark than bite.
Director Egor Abramenko‘s Sputnik is a unique horror film, blending together shady Russian politics with a period piece creature feature that makes for an atmospheric and dense slice of cinema. Sputnik isn’t quite a hard dive into sci-fi, nor is it your typical horror film, but it does borrow heavily from both genres as it attempts to tackle subject matter that’s far more elusive.
Two Russian cosmonauts have completed their mission in space and are heading back home for a mission well-done when something happens. Suddenly, one of the cosmonauts is carrying precious cargo and immediately isolated to a remote research facility while government officials figures out just what happened up in space and what new secrets lie within him.
Tatyana (Oksana Akinshina) is brought in to investigate the event from a medical perspective, slowly learning about this new parasite and its connection with the cosmonaut by studying its bond and reporting her findings.
Sputnik is not the type of film that hides its creature in the darkness only to be exposed during the film’s final moments. Oh no; this film introduces the creature rather early and approaches the whole situation from a military and scientific perspective, clearly outlining most of the agenda, while slowly revealing a few plot details as we grow to learn the characters and their objectives.
I applaud Sputnik for having such a creative creature design, borrowing from what appears to be Cloverfield, but also adding its own unique touches to make for something that’s truly terrifying, but not far from possible.
I also enjoyed the fact that we were exposed to so much rather early, with the real mystery being how they plan on solving this issue and how they plan on moving forward knowing that there is an alien creature actively living inside one of the returned cosmonauts.
It’s an interesting dilemma and one handled how one would expect the Russians to handle such a problem during their Cold War space endeavors.
Sputnik is part creature sci-fi horror film and part government conspiracy as it looks deeper into the driving factor of men, more specifically of military soldiers simply looking to take advantage of this situation and instantly weaponize whatever aspect of this foreign body that they can.
And it’s not far off from how one would think such a government would react or interact with an alien of mysterious origins and powers. Would we be kind to it or try to study it in a non-intrusive way? Heck no, we’d rather throw bodies at it and study how quickly it consumes them.
Sputnik makes for interesting cinema in its ability to really focus on the characters and the situation as a whole and not so much the alien and its ability to rip a skull off of a human in five seconds flat. The camera spends enough time sizing up the creature, but more time sizing up the rest of the cast and their inability to make progress as seen through the eyes of the higher up officials.
I’ll be the first to admit that Sputnik underwhelmed me. Not because the film wasn’t well constructed — director Egor Abramenko has shown some serious talent behind the lens, crafting something that’s brooding and unafraid to spend more time on dialog than action, but perhaps that is where the film lost me?
I was expecting something a little bit more traditional in the sense of a sci-fi flick or a creature feature and was instead given something that has more in common with Splice than it does Life.
And that doesn’t mean I should fault the film for being what it is, but instead alter my own expectations and with that in mind I still came down feeling like the film was just missing “something” key. There’s an element absent and that leaves the film feeling like more could have been explored and that characters just kind of built up towards these final moments only to be quickly exchanged for something less impactful.
A lot of this can’t be fully realized without spoiling, which means that I will simply say that I left Sputnik appreciative for what I saw, but also desperately wanting more out of it.
Still, Sputnik is a heck of a $7 rental on VOD for those looking for a dose of Russian sci-fi/horror that’s unafraid to approach the whole situation a bit differently, even if the whole government conspiracy angle seems over-played and expected, if anything, because it would totally go down this way.
If you liked the weirdly exploitative creature feature Splice, then I think Sputnik would be a solid suggestion, but if you’re more in tune with Life or other sci-fi horror films that lean more into the action category, then I would avoid Sputnik as it probably moves too slow for your tastes and requires a bit more patience, with less payoff.