There is a great joy I get in seeing a genre film executed cleverly on a limited budget. Sputnik is one of these films. It gets the gore and thrills right while also impressing the audience in how efficient it can be with such low-cost but thoughtful filmmaking. First-time feature film director Egor Abramenko doesn't so hide his influences but pulls off sequence after sequence with confidence and verve.
One way this is done is with the gore. Abramenko understands when to show his slimy, slithering alien parasite. He understands how much to show of it yanking some Soviet-era baddie's head off. He knows what the audience will fill in so we believe we see more than we do. He pulls from Speilberg, using reaction shots often rather than extended shots of gore and violence.
Sputnik takes place mostly in one military compound in Kazakhstan in 1983. After a spaceman returns to earth, he is studied. A tough as nails psychiatrist (Oksana Akinshina) is brought in by the head honcho (Fyodor Bondarchuck) to study the astronaut (Pyotr Fyodorov). We learn early on that the goal is to separate host from parasite in hopes to control the alien. The astronaut has no idea that every night he passes out and out crawls a deadly creature from his mouth.
Written by Oleg Malovichko and Andrei Zolotarev, Sputnik borrows from several sci-fi films including Arrival, The Thing, and Alien. These elements are familiar but never feel cheaply borrowed thanks to the deft direction and all-around good ensemble acting. The camerawork is slick and adds polish to the film that exceeds its small budget. Thrilling, well-paced, and all-around a good time, this creature feature sci-fi export is well worth checking out.