Konstantin Veshnyakov (Pyotr Fyodorov) was a cosmonaut in the mid-nineteen-eighties who while he was up in his capsule, orbiting the Earth with his commander, was about to commence the landing procedure when something strange happened: the capsule lurched and plummeted, and when it righted itself there seemed to be something crawling on its hull. The pod fell to Earth in Kazakhstan where it was found by a local, much to his horror, as the commander was lying crumpled on the ground with his skull torn open and his brains eaten out, and Konstantin was stumbling around with blackened eyes and bloody wounds. It was clear something had gone very wrong, but what? Enter Government scientist Tatyana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) to investigate...
Time was when you could rely on the Italians to conjure up wacky rip-offs of Hollywood product, but this was the twenty-first century and the Russians were now muscling in on the act, this being a good example, where The Quatermass Xperiment was mingled with Alien (the Ridley Scott movie) to create a science fiction horror that leaned heavily into the roots of the darkest corners of the Soviet Union. What this did effectively was build on those influences to make something less a Hollywood wannabe, and more a bizarre, anti-nostalgic reminder of the strain the nation was under during the Communist regime, as embodied by the monster the two cosmonauts have brought back with them which only one has survived in the journey, and for very good reason.
That reason being his body is now home to the space monster, a slimy parasite with a spider's face and angular limbs that emerges from his gaping mouth every so often to wander around by itself, and, if it gets the chance, feasting on those tasty human brains. The authorities are led by military man Semiradov (Fedor Bondarchuk) who like so many in his position before, wants to keep the parasite around so they can work out what makes it tick and if it can be used as an object of combat or war, and we all know how that usually turns out, don't we? The nuclear weapons metaphors were never far away in this kind of tale, and the Soviets of the eighties had just as many motives to send off the missiles as the other countries that had it did. Therefore we are invited to fear the possibility that they could have a superbeast working for them.
Director Egor Abramenko guided this with a surprisingly low-key hand, more interested in suspense than the gory setpieces, though there were a handful of those as well. If anything, he was a shade too reserved, to the point of ponderous, in taking his monster flick so seriously, and you could envisage the more thrillseeking element of horror fandom losing patience with his stylings here. If you were more accommodating, you would find essentially a mad scientist yarn dressed up with a CGI monster and complications when Konstantin's symbiosis proves more powerful than anyone anticipated, linking in with his abandoned son now staying in an orphanage which brings out maternal feelings in Tatyana she didn't know she had (is this more of an effect brought on by the critter, which bites her leg at one stage?). There was a neat, stark atmosphere to Sputnik brought about by its gloomy, antiseptic military base where most of it took place, and that was probably its strongest aspect; otherwise, a little too deliberate, but the setting and era made it distinctive. Music by Oleg Karpachev.