(director: Egor Abramenko; screenwriters: Oleg Malovichko, Andrei Zolotarev; cinematographer: Maxim Zhukov; music: Oleg Karpachev; cast: Oksana Akinshina (Dr. Tatiana Klimova),  Pyotr Fyodorov (Konstantin Sergeyevich), Fedor Bondarchuk (Colonel Semiradov), Anton Vasiliev (Dr. Rigel), Albrect Zander (Convict Seryj), Anna Nazarova (Nurse), Vasily Zotov (Biologist) ; Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Aleksandr Andryushchenko, Fedor Bondarchuk, Pavel Burya; IFC Midnight; 2020)-Russia-in Russian & Latin, with English subtitles

“Sometimes gripping but mostly disappointing.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Russian sci-fi horror pic is the feature directorial effort of Russian filmmaker Egor Abramenko. It’s sometimes gripping but mostly disappointing. It’s set in 1983 at a remote army facility in the steppes of Kazakhstan, which stores a Russian rocket that crash lands after returning from a trip to orbit space on a two person mission (that has one cosmonaut dead). It also inadvertently brings back an extraterrestrial-parasite stowaway, who comes aboard when the rocket develops mechanical problems before descending. The creature secretly hides in the stomach of the surviving cosmonaut, Konstantin (Pyotr Fyodorov), who has lost most of his memory and is unaware of events. He has been groomed to be a national hero and therefore must be saved. While the cosmonaut sleeps, the creature comes out of his mouth and then slithers snake-like back to its host’s stomach, so only the host doesn’t know the score. It’s off to the base’s medical facility for the arrogant astronaut, still unaware of his condition.

When the base medical person,
Dr. Rigel (Anton Vasiliev), can’t separate the parasite and host, the brightest but most controversial psychiatrist in Russia, one under investigation for her unconventional harsh but successful treatment of an illegitimate child orphan dependent on his mother, the hard-nosed, unemotional, risk-taking psychiatrist Dr. Tatyana Kliminova (Oksana Akinshina) gets the call from the frosty base commander, the creepy bureaucrat, Colonel Semiradov (Fedor Bondarchuk), to leave Moscow and go to the remote Army facility to investigate the alien (the Russians would like to see how they can use the monster for warfare).

Oleg Malovichko and Andrei Zolotarev script, hardly original, steals much from the superior 1977 American film “Alien.”  The writers keep things dull for the first hour or so, as the good shrink observes the creature coming in and out of the cosmonaut through a large pane of thick glass. But it cuts away to follow the back story on the shrink until we finally get to see something more damning revealed, as the film links the cosmonaut with the kid in the orphanage. This far-fetched but intriguing scenario saves the film from being a complete disappointment.

Its assets are that the visuals are captivating, it sets a proper gloomy atmosphere and there’s some thinking that goes into its suspenseful yarn.

REVIEWED ON 8/21/2020  GRADE: B-