Greetings fellow cinephiles, Brian Salisbury of Horror Squad here; Sci-Fi Squad's twisted sibling. Over on our side of the blogosphere, I operate a weekly feature focusing on horror movies on VHS that never graduated to DVD or are no longer readily available as such. It's called Terror Tapes and it has sent me wading waist-deep through some of the worst garbage the local Austin video stores have to offer. There have been a smattering of gems among the waste, but for the most part these films emphatically argue against their own upgrade.

I received a film for Christmas that I have desperately wanted to see ever since saw the cover art on the rental shelf when I was younger. It was called Split Second and featured an alarmingly nonchalant Rutger Hauer strolling casually away from a badass alien monster. Once the DVD went out of print a few years ago, tracking it down became a bit arduous. Thank goodness for dead formats!

So, I thought I would do a special Sci-Fi Squad edition of Terror Tapes as Split Second certainly seems to fall under that banner far more than horror. Enjoy!

Split Second
takes place in the distant future of 2008 in London. A great flood has submerged a large portion of the city and created a number of annoying, yet manageable puddles in the parts of town still above water. The story centers on Harley Stone, Hauer, a cop whose partner was murdered by a deranged serial killer. Stone becomes obsessed with tracking down the madman and will stop at nothing to find him. Fed up with his antics, and suspicious of his habit of showing up to crime scenes before they are even committed, Stone's superiors saddle him with a partner with an extensive knowledge of serial killer mentality hoping to both calm him down and keep tabs on him. As the two dig deeper and deeper into a new rash of killings with a hauntingly familiar m.o., they discover the man they're looking for is no man at all.

There is no reason this film should not be a blast. I mean it's freaking Rutger Hauer fighting monsters in the future! On top of all of that it's a rogue cop story with a fantastic character actor in the lead role. Unfortunately they neglected one small detail, one of the minutiae elements that tend to complement a film: plot. For all the setup and all the potential of Split Second, this thing is incendiary in its tedium. It's paced like a heart monitor connected to an elephant, with traces of life appearing sparsely after long intervals of silence. Hauer is great, but even he cannot carry the tired, lethargic story between sightings of the monster. Not to mention the fact that they are building up the origin of the monster throughout the film and the final payoff of that investigation doesn't really payoff at all.

I do really like Hauer in this. He is unhinged and wildly unpredictable; wondering how much of that was in the script and how much was ad lib. I think my favorite character trait is the giant handfuls of chewing gum that he keeps inexplicably cramming into his face. His character seems too ridiculous to take seriously in this, but I was just so elated that he was providing some spec of entertainment in otherwise bland-as-instant-oatmeal scenes. To be fair, the final fight scene between him and the creature is pretty balls-out incredible. Hauer achieves new levels of macho action star zeal with his choice of fight-ending tactic.

The film also features Kim Cattrall, everyone's favorite aging tart, as the wife of Hauer's slain partner. You may notice that she is still sporting her haircut from Star Trek VI, as Split Second was filmed directly thereafter, and she must not have had time to de-Vulcanize. I half expected Hauer to pull her hair back and reveal pointy ears. She's passable in this, but annoyingly vulnerable. I also found Alastair Duncan, who plays the brainy partner, to be more-than-a-little grating.

All in all, while it features some very entertaining moments, Split Second is an overwhelmingly lackluster sci-fi thriller. Hauer is great but not given a heck of a lot to play with and the supporting cast offers little in the way of support. The monster looks pretty cool, but also bears a striking resemblance to Venom from Spiderman. Too bad he couldn't spread his essence from person to person because that actually would have made the film far more interesting. The explanation as to what the monster is and where he comes from will more-than-likely leave a bad taste in your mouth.

It still has a lot of potential that I would like to see farmed; possibly in a remake. For example, I would love to see a London that actually felt as though it were partially submerged instead of a slightly damp city with a few large puddles. If nothing else, this film provided me with a new distinction for horror versus sci-fi. If it's set in the future and features a monster, the line can still be a little blurry. But the moment that monster picks up a gun and starts firing at the hero, the scale has unalterably tipped toward science-fiction.
CATEGORIES Reviews, Sci-Fi