Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Day the Reds Stood Still

A feast for hypochondriacs, Sputnik asks the question, "What if that tickle in the back of your throat is actually a parasitic alien life-form that slithers out your esophagus while you're asleep in order to eat every living thing it comes into contact with?" In 2020 a timely query, when every night brings with it the rock firm belief that cough cough this, this is the day that The Disease managed to get itself locked down inside of you, no matter what precautions you took. Masks be damned there's no stopping squick.

What Veshnyakov (Pyotr Fyodorov) and Averchenko (Aleksey Demidov) did was in the year of our lord 1983 venture into outer space on their little rocket cruiser at the bidding of the blessed Mother Russia, and before one of them could finish humming his favorite little tune a slithery little somebody came a tap tap tappin, rap rap rappin, on their window-pane. Cut to the rocket crash-landing back to earth, Averchenko tossed to the side with his skull bashed in. But Veshnyakov, crafty devil, is somehow seemingly fine, no worse for wear... in fact he is suddenly getting stronger and faster by the day... although he does seem to have a mysterious little tickle...

I see a lot of people comparing Egor Abramenko's sci-fi thriller -- a huge hit in its native Russia that's out here in the US this weekend via VOD thanks to IFC -- to Ridley Scott's Alien and sure, I get that, especially when it comes to its no-nonsense science-spouting jumpsuit-wearing leading-lady. Tatyana (Oksana Akinshina), a psychologist brought in to see what's what with Veshnyakov, is clearly a riff on our beloved bitch-puncher Ellen Ripley as she kicks alien ass and says all the right, smart, capable stuff.

But even more than Alien this Sputnik was giving me in particular some serious Brain Damage -- meaning Frank Henenlotter's 1988 B-movie dark comic sleaze-fest of course, which was about a healthy young man who finds himself invaded by a carnivorous parasite with thoughts of its own, also fond of fluids. Sputnik is simply Brain Damage, played straight. There's not much humor, but there's a lot of fun, if that makes sense.

Anyway you don't really realize how hard up you are for a good gross B-movie action thriller until you're trapped in your house without fresh new content to consume for one hundred plus days -- Sputnik, referential though it might be, really slapped the right spots. I dug the heck out of it. I do love me a good monster movie and this is a good monster movie -- the monster is good, the characters are good, the locations are crisp and tight and the threat seems legit. Watch the big strong soldier dudes quake in their boots and scream, suckers, scream!

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