In its own warped way, COVID-19 adds extra resonance to horror films, demonstrated by two new releases that deal with types of fear.
One, Sputnik, provides a familiar, lethal, movie monster. The other, She Dies Tomorrow, explores the nuance of contagion.
With Sputnik, Alien meets The Thing in a variation of other sci-fi tales. Dealing with familiar concepts, Russian Director Egor Abramenko pulls from proven sources with his story of a team of scientists who live in an isolated compound and face the feeding frenzy of a hitchhiker who spends time inside an astronaut’s body.
“Eyewww” seems a normal reaction, and Sputnik offers its share of gore. Yet it mostly avoids slipping into a slimy, tacky pool of blood, initially drawing back rather than focusing on schlock film exploitation moments. Instead, the film features intelligent dialogue, well-delivered by actors who — while lacking international fame — show big-screen charisma and skill.
As with any effective horror film, many scenes need no talk, which works well for those who dislike reading subtitles. Just sit back, watch, and occasionally jump out of your chair.
In contrast, She Dies Tomorrow from Writer-Director Any Seimetz gets its impact through an inadvertent link to current events, as unwitting carriers of a new syndrome accidentally infect others around them.
The symptoms prove strange and simple: victims wake up and know for certain that they will — as that titles says— die tomorrow.
Instead of pursuing “bucket list” adventures or trying to get away with monstrous crimes in their remaining hours, victims respond with almost passive incredulity. In many ways, this approach mirrors current reactions to COVID-19, giving She Dies Tomorrow an eerie sense of timeliness.
Of course, movie monsters ranging from vampires to werewolves to zombies rely on a contagious element for their horror, but Seimetz puts a different twist on the idea with her restrained and esoteric approach.
Well suited to the small screen, She Dies Tomorrow never got its planned theatrical release, but shows on various streaming services. Similarly, Sputnik hits the streaming screen as part of IFC’s “Midnight” division.
Robin Holabird is a former film commissioner for the Nevada Film Office and a longtime KUNR entertainment reviewer. Catch her commentary Fridays during Fresh Air, between 2:37 and 2:47 p.m.