MONSTERZERO NJ’S BEST/FAVORITE HORROR FLICKS of 2020!
Maya (Tara Basro) returns to her birthplace to find a decades old curse that may get her killed in Impetigore.
It’s time to look back at the past year and see what horror flicks left an impression. The COVID 19 shutdown had major releases on hold, allowing indie horror to take the forefront via drive-ins and on streaming networks. Most of this year’s bests are indie productions, save for a few scant studio horrors released before theater closings. So, without further ado, here are my ten best/favorite horrors of 2020!…
…and five honorable mentions that deserve a shout out, too!
(NOTE: There are a few titles here initially released in 2019, or earlier, at festivals, but didn’t get an official release, theatrically, or to VOD or home media, till 2020. Obviously, it would be unfair not to include them!-MZNJ)
(To get to our reviews of these titles use the search engine at the top of the page!)
Is hot mom next door Abbie (Zarah Mahler) a witch? Teen Ben (John-Paul Howard) seems to think so, in The Wretched.
Russian sci-fi/horror takes place in 1983 with a Soviet spacecraft finishing it’s mission and about to begin re-entry to Earth. Something impacts the ship and when it does land, one of the cosmonauts is dead and the other taken to a military instillation. Neurophysiologist Tatyana Yuryevna Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) is called in to examine the surviving Cosmonaut Konstantin (Pyotr Fyodorov), who is suffering from amnesia about the incident. To her horror, Tatyana soon discovers that Konstantin did not return alone. There is an alien creature living inside him that comes out once a night to feed…and what it is being fed is the worst nightmare of all.
Film is very effectively directed by Egor Abramenko from a script by Oleg Malovichko and Andrei Zolotarev. There will be comparisons to Alien, but they aren’t as many as one might initially expect. The creature here is using Konstantin as a space suit, technically and has formed a symbiotic relationship with the cosmonaut, who is at first thought to be oblivious to his internal guest. There are some clever explanations as to how the creature exits his body without causing harm and goes back in when done with it’s meals. There are some disturbing reveals about just how much Konstantin knows about what his symbiote is up to when it exits and just what their “relationship” is exactly. The most Alien of Sputnik’s plot elements is what the villainous Colonel Semiradov (Fyodor Bondarchuk) is planning to do with the creature and Konstantin. No spoiler there, as what else do these guys plan to do with dangerous biological entities in these movies. There are some subplots which give Tatyana and Konstantin some emotional depth, though Semiradov remains a stereotypical military bad guy with opportunistic and power hungry plans. There is a lot of blood and gore spilled to satisfy the horror crowd, some nice tension and suspense and the Russian locations are very atmospheric. The creature’s design is a little different and comes across more Cloverfield than H.R. Giger, which helps distance it from the 1979 Ridley Scott classic even more. The creature is given a lethality and a viciousness, yet there are hints of an intelligence beyond what it shares with it’s cosmonaut sleeping bag. An effective beastie!
The cast is small in terms of leads but good. Oksana Akinshina is a very likable heroine as Tatyana. She strong and clever and sympathetic to Konstantin’s plight. Add to that, her horror over what Semiradov is doing and planning, is enough for her to risk her own life to stop him. She’s also not perfect, as the opening moments reveal. Pyotr Fyodorov is solid as Konstantin. The character is interesting and not completely portrayed as a victim, so much, but possibly someone accepting this as his fate for some selfish decisions. Some nice depth here for the character. Rounding out is Fyodor Bondarchuk as a classic military bad guy. He’s very effective in the part, even if it is a bit two-dimensional and familiar. Lastly is Anton Vasiliev as Yan Rigel, a scientist too afraid to speak out against what he’s seen, though he does have a nice…and not all that surprising…change of heart in the last act.
All in all, Sputnik was an entertaining science fiction/horror that evokes the classic Alien, but not as much as one might expect. There are some similar plot elements, but Sputnik is it’s own thing and tells it’s own story. There are the classic tropes of military bad guys, sympathetic scientists and of course, a person caught in-between. We have an interesting and threatening alien creature and there is plenty of blood and body parts spread about when the beast is on the loose from his human host. A solid and entertaining flick that may evoke Alien, but never feels like it’s copying or ripping it off. Available on streaming formats from IFC Midnight!