Taking place in 1983, Sputnik opens with two Russian cosmonauts in space discussing what they’ll do once they return home. Their Orbita-4 spacecraft encounters something that knocks them out of orbit. They crash land in Kazakhstan and only one of the two cosmonauts survives, but something from the depths of space returned with him.
Konstantin Veshnyakov (Pyotr Fyodorov) seems to be healthier than ever despite the critical injuries he sustained from the Orbita-4 crash. The Russian government, a man known as Semiradov (Fedor Bondarchuk) specifically, wants to weaponize what Konstantin now has within him.
He brings in Tatyana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina), a doctor whose extreme methods of treatment have jeopardized her status as a viable doctor. Tatyana is brought in to separate Konstantine from the creature within him, but what she discovers is much more disturbing.
Sputnik had a lot of buzz prior to its release among the online horror community because of it being this up and coming creature feature with the potential for incredible gore and fantastic creature effects. The special effects and the creature itself are the best parts of Sputnik. It has the appearance of an albino snake or similar to that of the Hammerpede from Prometheus.
It slithers around, but has two front legs/arms with pointed feet. If they were arms, the creature would walk on its wrists with its hands/points curled backwards kind of like the MUTO from the 2014 Godzilla film. It has a more refined head than any other creature it may remind you of and a face with just enough definable features to let you know when it’s about to feed.
This creature’s abilities that are revealed throughout Sputnik are also intriguing. How it bonds with Konstantine, whether he’s conscious of his actions or not when the creature takes control, and what it feeds on are all elements that add depth to an otherwise awkward orbital albino snake thing. The comparisons between Venom and Daniel Espinosa’s 2017 film Life are warranted, but Sputnik absolutely has its own identity in comparison.
This creature is able to enter and exit its host without harming it every night/early morning around 2-3am. It is referred to as a parasite and or a symbiote regularly and it’s sensitive to light. The majority of the film is spent on surveillance; observing Konstantin’s state of mind after the crash and how the creature reacts to anything at night with all the lights off.
Sputnik basically lacks in every other element not related to the creature. The performances in the film are passable, but the story is awful at explaining anything. You have no idea why this creature attached itself to Orbita-4 specifically. The film tries to latch on to this secondary story element of Konstantin never being around the child he didn’t know he had until after he had started training to become a cosmonaut. Is the alien creature attracted to guilt or to those that lack empathy and or sympathy? Sputnik leaves this ambiguous.
The special effects shine when the creature feeds, but it also seems like a huge waste. If you could eat an entire watermelon in one bite, wouldn’t you want to be able to swallow the majority of its contents? Blood and brain matter splatter on walls and the ground more so than into the creature’s mouth, which seems like it’s more for show or a defense tactic rather than a satisfactory way to sustain hunger.
The film spends a lot of time building Tatyana up like this hardened woman that isn’t affected by anything and does what’s best for her patient despite how difficult or heartless it may seem. Her interactions with Konstantin throw all of that out the window.
Diving into slight spoiler territory, the creature feeds on prison convicts which seems like a win-win for everyone. But Tatyana finds this repulsive and human, spills everything to Konstantin (his status had been kept secret up to this point in the film), and immediately wants to help him escape and reunite with his son.
Tatyana also has this weird bathroom sequence where the hot shower is filling the room with steam in order to reveal a back scar that goes all the way down her spine. If you forget this, it’s fine. It’s never brought up again.
Sputnik is a visually remarkable sci-fi horror film that leaves you with a lot of questions and even ends on a sour note. What Tatyana does in the film’s final moments is dumb by anyone’s standards. The special effects are outstanding as every scene with the alien creature are outstanding. The stand-off sequence between Semiradov, a bunch of his men, and the creature is this really satisfying sequence that successfully combines action, horror, and gore.
But it’s as if Sputnik is purposely light on logic and backstory only to frustrate the audience. In horror films, this aspect is usually utilized to give the killer more kills or have a victim do something totally dumb just to die horribly. Sputnik doesn’t need to do that, but it feels tethered to that formula anyway.
It’s as if screenwriters Oleg Malovichko and Andrei Zolotarev had no idea how to write a sensible horror film. They helped craft a superb sci-fi horror alien that feasts on humans, but injected it into a world even less rational than our own. It’s always disappointing when a film would be better watching YouTube highlights of rather than in its entirety.
Sputnik is available in select theaters, digital, and cable VOD now. It can be rented for various prices, but is currently only $3.99 on Amazon Prime.
- Creature Design
- Impressive Gore
- Underdeveloped story
- Nothing is explained