Few folks would disagree that 2020 has been a rough year, but one bright spot is it has produced a steady stream of very good horror movies.
You can go ahead and add SPUTNIK (2020) to the list, a very effective horror science fiction film which hails from Estonia and takes place in the Soviet Union in 1983.
When a Soviet spacecraft returns to Earth, one cosmonaut is found dead, the other bloodied and disoriented. Colonel Semiradov (Fedor Bondarchuk) calls in psychologist Tatyana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) to help evaluate the condition of the surviving cosmonaut, Konstantin Veshnyakov (Pyotr Fyodorov). What they discover is that there is an alien creature living inside Veshnyakov that emerges from his body at night only to return a short time later. It needs Veshnyakov’s body to survive in its new environment, and by living inside its host, it has developed a symbiotic relationship, one where Veshnyakov can no longer survive without it.
The less said about the plot of SPUTNIK, the better, as one of the best parts of this movie is its thought-provoking script by Oleg Malovichko and Andrei Zolotarev. It tells a compelling story which scores high on the suspense meter, delves into science fiction themes revolving around alien life forms, covers Soviet era Cold War suspense, and manages to encompass the theme of abandonment, of how we all need someone else to survive in this world. After all, the word Sputnik, while the name of the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth, launched by the Soviet Union, also means “companion” in Russian.
In terms of tone and feel, SPUTNIK has more in common with films like EX MACHINA (2014) and ARRIVAL (2016) than it does with the ALIEN movies.
That being said, the actual alien in this one is pretty cool looking. It reminded me of a miniature version of the monster from CLOVERFIELD (2008). The special effects here are excellent, and the creature looks creepy and real.
Director Egor Abramenko keeps the thrills tight and builds suspense throughout. There are some genuinely horrific scenes in this one, as well as plenty of low key thought-provoking moments of intrigue.
The cast is superb. Oksana Akinshina leads the way as psychologist Tatyana Klimova. Akinshina’s performance carries the movie. Tatyana is more than up to the task of standing up to the Soviet military, personified here by Colonel Semiradov, but she becomes more vulnerable as she grows closer to her subject, cosmonaut Konstantin. She also has some really cool scenes where she attempts to communicate with the alien creature.
Likewise, Fedor Bondarchuk is excellent as Colonel Semiradov, the military man who sells himself to Tatyana as a man independent of his superiors, but in reality is most interested in the alien for its potential use as a weapon.
And Pyotr Fyodorov is also very good as cosmonaut Konstantin Veshnyakov, a man who believes himself a hero but is also pained by choices he has made in his personal life. And what he knows about the alien inside him also makes him yet another intriguing aspect to this story.
The fourth principal character in this movie is Yan Rigel, an eminent Soviet scientist who at first is jealous of Tatyana’s involvement in the investigation, and he’s well played by Anton Vasilev. Rigel eventually becomes a sympathetic character, and Vasilev keeps the changes this character undergoes believable throughout.
SPUTNIK also features a strong music score by Oleg Karpachev, which really adds a lot to the movie and further enhances its uneasy mood.
I really liked SPUTNIK, and it’s one of my favorite movies of the year so far. In terms of enjoyable horror movies from 2020, SPUTNIK joins the likes of THE INVISIBLE MAN, UNDERWATER, THE RENTAL, WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS, THE WRETCHED, and RELIC, all 2020 releases, all really good horror movies.
If you’re looking for a thought-provoking science fiction film, one that mixes its cerebral themes with emotional ones, plus adds some genuine horror and suspense to the mix, then look no further than SPUTNIK.
It’s science fiction horror at its best.
It’s been awhile since I felt excited by new Horror…. and this one I will search out!