Vampire Owl: The title does remind everyone to get vaccinated.
Vampire Bat: It should originally inspire people to go to space.
Vampire Owl: It has surely inspired me to watch the movie.
Vampire Bat: Despite the name, this is a horror film.
Vampire Owl: So there is nothing about the achievements in space programmes.
Vampire Bat: Well, horror is the best genre for movies in space.
Vampire Owl: Horror is the best genre for vampire movies.
Vampire Bat: Horror is more effective in reality though.
Vampire Owl: COVID-19 had already brought that.
Vampire Bat: Doctor Frankenstein is already having new experiments regarding the same.
[Gets a chocolate cake and three glasses of mango shake].
What is the movie about? :: In 1983, as the Cold War has reached its last stages, two cosmonauts who are exploring space come up against something strange on their way back. As there is some problem with their spacecraft, they crash lands in Soviet Kazakhstan. Konstantin (Pyotr Fyodorov) is the only survivor of the crash, and he is taken to an isolated military facility for observation. Dr Tatyana Yuryevna Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) who is known for some unorthodox methods of psychological treatment including almost drowning a young boy doesn’t accept that she was wrong, and for the same, she is not considered a good choice. But that changes when she is given another mission by Colonel Semiradov (Fyodor Bondarchuk) who is in charge of the facility where Konsantin is kept. This scientific research facility is located far away from civilization, and she feels that there is more to this than what meets the eye, but in a different way.
So, what happens with the events here as some twist is coming up? :: The psychologists at the facility had already tried a lot with him, but there is not much progress about anything, and it is up to Tatyana to make a difference. She talks to the man, but doesn’t find anything out of the ordinary – yet, talking is only the first step, as she would realize later. It turns out that the cosmonaut has been affected by something terrifying, an alien creature which lives inside him. The creature has formed a symbiotic relationship with the man, and it comes out at night when he is asleep. It feeds on whatever he eats, and uses his body as if it is a spacesuit for survival. It had helped him to survive the crash, and helped him regenerate very quickly, making him fit in about two days. Her mission is to separate the host and the creature which lives inside him, and it has to be done without causing him any problems. The man never knew about such an existence inside him as he was feeling even healthier than before, and this seems to be an impossible task.
The defence of Sputnik :: The tension and anxiety is built from the beginning itself, when we see the film. The beginning scenes in space are reminders of what is to come, a foreshadowing of the monstrous entities to be unleashed later. Even though similarities with other alien films are there, this film doesn’t focus on the same, but generates its own monstrosity. The creature design is good, and the deviation from other similar aliens are managed well too. The environment here is also really good, and being at the Cold War Soviet facility does feel different from the usual secret scientific facilities. There is also some fine music going in the background that supports things on the screen, and we also see no shortage of blood and gore. There are also some interesting revelations made in between, and as a Russian film, it seems to have some tranquil quality which the loud alien films from Hollywood don’t usually display.
Positives and negatives :: The film stays further away from the Hollywood style, and therefore if you are looking for people to go around fighting aliens and defeating them in face to face battles, this will not be that much satisfying for you. This one is a rather slower thing, but it still has these moments to be enjoyed – the slowing down does add some beauty to it. You remember that it is usually the United States that is shown as experimenting with aliens, but here we have the change. It is to be noted the film also manage a certain amount of realism even with an alien at the centre here. It also has a small subplot with a child which was totally unnecessary in a film like this – the same was more suited to a flick like Proxima, and here it is out of bounds. One also wonders if it could have had a little bit of more time spent in space, with Gravity-like effects. The ending could have also been stronger, as there are ideas running through here too.
Performers of the soul :: Oksana Akinshina leads the film as a strong character who is more of a person than what meets the eye. She is steady in her role, and has some special moments in store too. The scene with her meeting the alien face to face, and her moments during the alien feeding all provide her with shots to remember in the film. Pyotr Fyodorov has some good work as the cosmonaut who was affected by the alien, and there are some solid moments with him and the leading actress. He fits into the role nicely, and each moment seems to have something for him. Fyodor Bondarchuk plays the antagonist who is planning something sinister with the alien inside human, and he has that determined soldier played to perfection. Anton Vasiliev’s character stand differently, and it is nice to see that one working on a divergent path compared to the others. If alien was more human in nature, that would have made a fine character too.
How it finishes :: This is one Soviet-age film with aliens from space, and that is a special change, unlike X-Men and Captain America which could be set in the same time period – horror has a certain advantage while dealing with the time period, and this Russian film make good use of the same. You can find similarities with another alien film from Hollywood, Life, and surely the references to Alien and its sequels can be seen, as that particular alien life-form has been the model for many more which followed. As sputnik means fellow traveler, the film nicely alludes to the alien as much as the successful Soviet space programme of the space race time period. Now, it has also come to refer to the vaccine looking forward to end the COVID-19 pandemic, and here it is the alien that needs to be taken care of instead of the virus. If you have liked films space travel films with aliens coming to Earth, this is another movie to grab your attention, and with this setting, it has much more of an advantage above the other movies.
Release date: 23rd April 2020
Running time: 113 minutes
Directed by: Egor Abramenko
Starring: Oksana Akinshina, Fyodor Bondarchuk, Pyotr Fyodorov, Anton Vasiliev, Vitaliya Korniyenko, Anna Nazarova, Aleksey Demidov, Aleksandr Marushev, Albrecht Zander, Pavel Ustinov, Natalya Shvets, Vasiliy Zotov
@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.