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“Sputnik” Discovers A Fun Angle For A Creature Feature

We don’t get enough material set in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The era is so fraught with mystery and intrigue, it benefits more than just spy thrillers. This weekend’s new release Sputnik, for example, manages to use the period for a science fiction / horror outing. The already potential laden field of space horror mixes with a creature feature to form something pretty unique and often a lot of fun. Things fall apart a bit at the end, but this is a great little under the radar title. You’d do well to give it a look, especially if you’re keen on genre offerings.

The movie is sci-fi horror picture, set in the former Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War. Cosmonauts Konstantin Veshnyakov (Pyotr Fyodorov) and Kirill Averchenko (Aleksey Demidov) are returning home from space when something interacts with their capsule. Veshnyakov is taken to a secret government facility, unable to remember what happened. Colonel Semiradov (Fedor Bondarchuk), knowing more about his situation, recruits young doctor Tatiana Yurievna (Oksana Akinshina) for help. About to lose her medical license for controversial methods, the military swoops in and brings her to the secure science research facility to assess Veshnyakov’s very special case. Quickly, she learns that he has returned to Earth with something living inside of him, a creature that only shows itself late at night, emerging from his body to feed. As Tatiana tries to stop it from killing Konstantin, the military has other plans for it, while the creature itself grows and thrives on the fear of its victims. Eventually, destruction ensues. Egor Abramenko directs a screenplay by Oleg Malovichko and Andrei Zolotarev. Supporting players include Vitaliya Kornienko, Anton Vasilev, and more. Maxim Zhukov handles the cinematography, while the score is from Oleg Karpachev.

With a memorably original creature, a pulsating score, and a vibe of creative, this easily sets itself apart from the pack. Now, the third act is problematic, with all of the mystery and fun giving way to more violence and less intelligence, but this is largely a successful flick. Oksana Akinshina is a compelling lead, while the early sections of the script are hugely intriguing. Again, not everything gets paid off in a fully satisfying way, but it’s hard not to look at the creative forces here and not give a hearty thumbs up to its willingness to do some genre tinkering.

Sputnik is a definite calling card for Egor Abramenko. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t directing a big Hollywood picture within five years. He has the feel for blockbuster cinema, that’s for sure. He makes the film feel both big and intimate, which too many a tentpole type filmmaker struggle with. Plus, by having this be a Russian work, set during the Cold War, the added hush hush nature of the characters is all the more compelling. There’s a terrible American version of this flick, but luckily we came nowhere close to that outcome, thanks to Abramenko (as well as scribes Oleg Malovichko and Andrei Zolotarev).

Now playing, Sputnik is a really nice sci-fi horror mix that genre fans will certainly dig on. The movie has some faults, but its originally goes a long way, along with a monster that you won’t soon forget. A very strong fit for the last gasps of the summer, in a more perfect world we’d have been watching this one in theaters. That’s obviously not the case, but however you end up seeing this one, it’s not to be missed…

Be sure to check out Sputnik, available to watch right now!

(Photos courtesy of IFC Midnight)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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