VOD film review: Sputnik
James R | On 03, Nov 2020
Director: Egor Abramenko
Cast: Pyotr Fyodorov, Oksana Akinshina
How do you say “alien” in Russian? The answer lies in Sputnik, a lean, mean horror that brings Ridley Scott’s iconic sci-fi nastiness down to Earth. But Egor Abramenko’s debut feature has enough of its own voice to offer distinctively creepy thrills.
The film is set in 1983, slap bang in the middle of the space race. A mission goes awry, though, when a Russian ship crashes down to the ground – with only one survivor, cosmonaut Konstantin Veshnyakov (Pyotr Fyodorov). He can’t remember what happened, but he recovers abnormally quickly from his bumpy return home – and is promptly locked up behind closed doors for scientific study.
To go into the details of what’s behind his rapidly healthy state would be cruel, but it’s a skin-crawlingly unsettling reveal, one that Abramenko unveils with an expert handling of pace and suspense – even once the first revelation has dropped, further discoveries follow at a steady rate, drip-feeding unease all the way through to the end credits.
It helps that the cast are so intriguingly ambiguous, from Fyodorov’s polite, calm facade to Oksana Akinshina as his psychiatrist, Tatyana, who has her own dubious secrets and questionable treatment methods. Even though she’s cautious and suspicious, she can’t help but be fascinated by what’s in front of her, and part of the film’s fun lies in how it draws you into the disturbing darkness, while then going on to examine the consequences of each new, horrifying act.
All this is backed up by some judiciously used effects and some stomach-churning set pieces, which combine to create a sci-fi thriller that feeds on the fear it produces – and it doesn’t take long to realise that it’s hungry. As a novel entry in a familiar genre, this is an enjoyable ride. As a confident calling card for an up-and-coming filmmaker, it’s seriously impressive.