The ’90s Sci-Fi Thriller That Took Years To Find Fans, Stream Right Now

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published

In the vast realm of 90s cinema, amidst the wave of action-packed thrillers and horror flicks, there lies a gem often overlooked and underestimated: Split Second. Directed by Tony Maylam and Ian Sharp, and penned by Gary Scott Thompson, this science fiction action horror film plunges viewers into a dystopian future, offering a concoction of adrenaline, mystery, and the supernatural.

Rutger Hauer Stars In Split Second

Set against the backdrop of a flooded London, Split Second follows Detective Harley Stone, portrayed by Rutger Hauer (truly a legend!), as he embarks on a relentless pursuit of a mysterious serial killer who once claimed the life of his partner. It’s due mainly to Hauer’s portrayal of Stone, a burnt-out yet determined cop, that has made this low-budget feature a cult classic journey of vengeance and redemption.

The Cast

Made on a budget of $7 million, Split Second was working with nickels and dimes to bring this sci-fi thriller to life. Luckily, the movie had a great ensemble cast to sell the story, including Kim Cattrall, Alastair Neil Duncan, Pete Postlethwaite, Ian Dury, and Alun Armstrong. Each character contributes to the eerie ambiance and suspense that permeates the film.

Trouble Making The Film

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From its inception, Split Second underwent a metamorphosis of script and vision. Originally titled Pentagram, the screenplay evolved under the creative prowess of Gary Scott Thompson. Thompson weaved elements of horror, action, and occultism into a gritty feature set in a futuristic London drowned by the consequences of global warming.

Destined for failure, Split Second’s troubles began during production. It was difficult for the creative team to decide on a creative direction and script revisions, debates over creature design, and changes in direction plagued the film. And while we’d like to say that the crew’s hard work paid off in the end, the movie was ultimately received tepidly by critics upon release.

Split Second Finds Its Audience Years Later

Critics, at the time, lambasted the film for its perceived shortcomings. Lawrence Cohn of Variety dismissed it as “extremely stupid,” while Chris Willman of the Los Angeles Times labeled it “simply terrible.” However, amidst the disparagement, Split Second found refuge in its unintentional humor and the performances of its esteemed cast.

Since its debut in 1992, Split Second has gone on to become a fan-favorite sci-fi B-movie. 

While most viewers recognize that it isn’t a good movie, it’s a lot of fun to watch. Fans especially love the film’s collection of quotable one-liners as well as the film’s overall creative direction.

Where To Stream Split Second

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While Split Second never built an extended legacy in the way that many other sci-fi films did (through sequels or video game adaptations), the film’s legacy extends beyond the silver screen and into the niche of music. Belgian grindcore band Aborted immortalized Split Second by featuring an image from the film on the cover of their debut album, The Purity of Perversion (1999).

And while Aborted may have recognized the potential in Split Second in the ’90s, it took a lot longer for the cinephiles to embrace the film. The movie never made up its budget and only acquired $5.4 million at the box office. But today, it’s embraced by fans of B-rated sci-fi movies worldwide and it’s now available to stream on Prime Video, Tubi, and Peacock.