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Film / Sputnik

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Sputnik (Russian: "Спутник'") is a 2020 Russian science-fiction horror film directed by Egor Abramenko, set in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.

In 1983 the space capsule Orbit-4 lands with one cosmonaut dead from horrific head injuries and the other, Konstantin Veshnyakov, unable to remember what happened. Dr. Tatyana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) is brought in to examine Konstantin, only to discover he is the unwilling host of an alien creature that has returned with him to Earth inside his body.

The movie has the following tropes:

  • Artistic License – Biology: Cortisol is produced by animals as well, so it's not clear why the early attempt to feed the alien with pigs didn't work. On the other hand Semiradov is hoping to use the alien as a weapon, so he may be deliberately conditioning it to attack humans.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The crippled child in the orphanage appears to be Konstantin's son, but is actually a young Tatyana, who as an adult adopts Konstantin's son after his death.
  • Birds of a Feather: At the start of the film Tatyana is facing a review board for her controversial treatment of a patient, and is about to be kicked out of the medical profession. Semiradov recruits her because he thinks she's a kindred spirit, willing to do what is necessary despite the Communist system discouraging such initiative. They turn out to be Not So Similar.
  • Body and Host: The alien inhabiting Konstantin is believed to be parasitic and it's assumed it will abandon him (dead or otherwise) once it's fully adapted to Earth's environment. However their relationship turns out to be symbiotic with each sharing the same consciousness and dependent on the other. When Konstantin realises this, he decides to Kill the Host Body so the alien will die as well.
  • Camera Spoofing: To enter a restricted area of the facility, Konstantin removes a magnet from the television in his room and places it on the side of a CCTV camera. The guard leaves the monitoring room to investigate why the camera isn't working, and they're able to slip past while he's walking from one place to the other.
  • Cowardice Callout: Tatyana discovers that the alien monster is being fed with live prisoners. The doctor studying the alien protests that it's the military doing this and not him.
    Rigel: What, do you think I'm a monster?
    Tatyana: You're not a monster, you're a coward. A highly adaptive and hardy specimen.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Semiradov wasn't wrong when he said the alien could be used as a weapon, as it absolutely slaughters his reaction team.
  • Cut Phone Lines:
    • When Tatyana tries to place a call to Moscow, she's told the only phone with an outside line is in Semiradov's office. Rigel later uses this phone to alert the authorities as to what's really going on.
    • When Konstantin is finally let out of his cell to sleep in the medical wing, he finds his television is connected to a VCR player but has no TV antennae. He's able to MacGyver a makeshift antennae, and isn't happy to see a news report announcing that he and his fellow cosmonaut returned alive after a successful mission.
  • Dull Surprise: Konstantin barely reacts when Tatyana reveals the truth. At first it seems that's because Big Brother Is Watching You, but it turns out he's known all along what's going on.
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch: Tatyana gets a mug of tea and walks in to interview Konstantin. When she asks if he wants tea as well, he says yes and takes her mug for himself.
  • Every Scar Has a Story: When she takes a shower, we see a scar running down the back of Tatyana's spine. This serves as a Foreshadowing when the crippled child in the hospital is revealed to be her.
  • Fanservice: A Shower Scene where Tatyana shows some sideboob.
  • Extra Eyes: The alien has eight beady eyes like a spider, in two groups of four.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Colonel Semiradov prefers to use persuasion rather than intimidation, seems to have a genuine liking for Tatyana, and comes across as a Reasonable Authority Figure who's risking a court martial to save Konstantin's life. Turns out he wants to use the alien as a weapon and is willing to commit murder to achieve his goal.
  • For Science!: Or for a Nobel Prize, in Rigel's case. Given that the Communist system discourages rocking the boat, it's easy for him to turn a blind eye to what Semiradov is up to on the grounds that he can't do anything about it.
  • Go Through Me: Tatyana stands between the inmate who's being Fed to the Beast and the alien. It works until the inmate makes a loud noise that startles the alien into attacking him.
  • Guilt Complex: Konstantin has repressed guilt for abandoning his illegitimate child for the sake of his career. When Tatyana sees the alien curl itself around a child's toy, she realises that the alien and the host have a shared consciousness.
  • Healing Factor: The alien can repair injuries to both itself and its host, curing the severe injuries Konstantin received (presumably from Explosive Decompression) in just two days. This bites Semiradov in the ass (well, the head actually) when he brings the wounded alien to Konstantin to force them back together and the alien recovers a lot faster than anticipated.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Averted; Konstantin admits that as a Hero of the Soviet Union he should kill himself to stop the alien, but he just wants to get out of his prison and see his family. In the end he does kill himself, knowing The Symbiote can't survive without him.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: Tatyana talks to Rigel in Latin so the guard will assume they're using medical jargon.
  • Human Resources: Criminals are being fed to the alien to keep it supplied with the cortisol it needs to survive. When Tatyana objects, Semiradov shows him the file of an inmate who raped and murdered his underage neighbour.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: While Up Close with the Monster, Tatyana sings "Million Scarlet Roses", the song she heard Konstantin singing earlier, knowing his consciousness is linked to the alien.
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: Inverted when Tatyana is shaming Rigel into helping her. "You're a scientist, not any old doctor."
  • Immune to Mind Control: When Tatyana first sees Konstantin, Rigel is using a metronome to hypnotise him to find out what happened, only to find Konstantin is just playing along to troll him.
  • Mental Fusion: Turns out Konstantin isn't suffering from amnesia; he shares the alien's consciousness so knows what's been going on the whole time. Semiradov hopes to make use of this to turn the alien into a weapon. This becomes Be Careful What You Wish For when Konstantin—having finally achieved full symbiosis with the alien—uses it to slaughter Semiradov and his men to stop him killing Tatyana.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: In the opening scene, the two cosmonauts on the Orbit-4 have just recovered from some kind of impact when they see a glimpse of something outside their capsule, followed by the sound of it crawling across the hull to the entry hatch.
  • Ominous Crawl: A Justified Trope as the alien wants you to see it coming because the victim's fear makes the human brain release cortisol, which the alien feeds on. Once it's crawled close enough however, it makes a Deadly Lunge and rips your head off.
  • Overt Rendezvous: Tatyana takes Konstantin jogging by the perimeter fence to reveal the truth about what's happening to him.
  • Parasitic Horror: The alien lives in the host's esophagus and stomach, and secretes a toxin that knocks out the host and relaxes his muscles so the alien can exit via the mouth to hunt and feed, which it does every night. Once outside the body and ingesting oxygen it grows from a snakelike form to a multi-limbed Starfish Alien 1.5 metres in length. It's speculated that the alien is using the host as a spacesuit until it becomes fully adapted to Earth's environment, whereupon it will discard the host like a cocoon.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: For something that's no bigger than a gibbon and just as lanky, the alien is ridculously strong for its size. It can rip a man's head off with its claws, just as easily as a child with a lego figure.
  • Plot Hole: Konstantin shoots himself so the symbiotic alien will die along with him, this would be a Downer Ending, except the extraterrestrial creature was already shown to be able to repair its host from crippling injuries. A single bullet would be ineffective.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: Subverted; the alien looks like this at first, and Tatyana's goal is to separate the two so the alien will die and Konstantin will live. She eventually realises this is impossible as the alien is actually The Symbiote.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Rigel is eventually guilt-tripped into helping Konstantin escape, but rather than leave with them he stays to alert Moscow as to what's been happening, for which he's murdered by Semiradov. Konstantin in turn kills himself so he and the alien won't be used as a weapon to kill others.
  • Scary Teeth: The kind that can rip a man's skull open in an instant.
  • Slime, Snails, and Mutant Tails: Tatyana enters the cell in a Hazmat Suit to make contact with the alien, only to startle it when she slips on the slime trail it leaves on exiting the host's body. She's lucky to get out of there with just a nasty bite.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Konstantin regurgitates one of the sleeping pills he's been forced to take, grinds it up and puts it in the tea of the nurse.
  • Space People: Given that the alien boarded the capsule outside the Earth's atmosphere, this is implied.
  • Symbiotic Possession: The alien was able to repair Konstantin's injuries. When Tatyana comes up with a way of forcing the alien out of his body and tries to drive Konstantin to a hospital, she realises it won't work as they've become fully symbiotic and will die if kept apart.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Tatyana notes the signs of PTSD in Konstantin and assumes it's linked to why he has no memory of what happened on the Orbit-4. Turns out he remembers just fine.
  • They Would Cut You Up: Averted; Semiradov is sending false reports to his superiors in Moscow because he's worried they'd order Konstantin and the alien killed if they knew about it.
  • Up Close with the Monster: Tatyana does this twice, both times voluntarily (three times if you include the last time the alien enters its host).
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The alien is hurt by light, though appears to have no problem fighting in the open once it's fully adapted.
  • Your Head Asplode: The alien's attacks are so sudden and violent it looks like the victim's head explodes.