Sputnik, the feature film debut from Russian director Egor Abramenko is one of the most intriguing films of this calendar year. It’s a creature horror film that follows in the footsteps of Alien, The Thing and Videodrome. While acknowledging its influence(s), it is sharply set against the oppressive totalitarian regime of the USSR during the height of the Cold War adding to this feeling that we don’t know what’s going on. This feeling of confusion at points clouds what is, for the most part, a well-crafted sci-fi horror as it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to focus on. It’s a film about an alien coming to earth, but the rest of the film awkwardly sits together.
Much of this awkwardness stems from the CGI work on the alien, that never seems real. The creature design is wonderfully simplistic, but the CGI pulls you out of the film so when you are meant to be horrified, and they are moments where you are horrified, but often it comes from the absence of this alien. The two lead actors played by Oksana Akinshina and Pyotr Fyodorov certainly do sell and ground these moments best they can. However, it still feels like a missed opportunity to create something truly horrifying.
Although there are flaws in this film, what makes it intriguing and rather exciting to film lovers is a single vision rarely seen in its originality, ambition and scope. Abramenko proves there is life left in a genre that has been rinsed dry and for this, he is certainly a filmmaker to keep an eye out for.