YouTube Origin

If Cobra Kai didn’t convince you to check out YouTube Premium, how about a new science fiction horror series that feels as if Event Horizon and Lost were genetically spliced together? And that Event Horizon comparison isn’t a throwaway reference, either – the first two episodes of Origin were directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, the filmmaker behind that 1997 B-movie gem and more than a few Resident Evil movies.

Appropriately, the footage from Origin that was screened at San Diego Comic-Con International looked like Anderson at his best – slick, schlocky, and simultaneously straight-faced and silly. And while it’s leaning heavily on the Lost model for basic structure, there are far worse shows from which to steal. Think of Origin as Lost, but instead of a mysterious island, everyone is trapped on a labyrinthine spaceship filled with things that mean them harm.

What is Origin?

Origin unfolds across two timelines. 60% of a given episode takes place on the Origin, a ship built by the powerful Siren corporation that is transporting colonists to a distant and habitable planet called Thea. The other 40% is comprised of flashbacks to the various colonists’ lives on Earth, exploring why they decided to drop everything, leave their lives behind, and journey into the great unknown. As you’d imagine, the cast of characters (engineers, doctors, criminals) all had a damn good reason to want a fresh start…and as you’d also imagine, that fresh start hits a brick wall on board the Origin, where things go terribly wrong.

11 of the colonists wake up and find their massive, maze-like, and inexplicably lit-like-a-haunted-house spaceship (shades of both Event Horizon and Alien here) completely abandoned. Something bad happened and the vast majority of the crew and passengers took off in escape pods. What happened? Why was this group left behind? And what is on the ship with them? Cue screaming, running, and lots of goo dripping from ceilings.

The core cast includes a few familiar faces, especially for those well-versed in geekery. Tom Felton, better known to millions as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, plays an American drug dealer looking for a second chance in space. Natalia Tena, known for roles in Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, plays a PTSD-stricken, gun-loving woman of mystery. Fraser James is a geneticist forced to play doctor to the fellow colonists and Nora Arnezeder is a Siren-employed engineer. However, the focus of the footage screened for the Comic-Con crowd was a character played by Sen Mitsuji, a Japanese Yakuza who flees Earth to escape violence and only ends up finding more.

12 Minutes of Footage

The extended clip was taken from the first episode and it was immediately clear that Anderson and Origin‘s producers aren’t afraid to lean on familiar concepts. It it isn’t broken, why fix it? The set design is Alien. The structure is Lost. The nasty horror is Event Horizon. But you know what? It seems to work. Anderson has made his fair share of bad movies, but when he’s at his best, he makes great schlock that wears its influences on its sleeve. And at first glance, Origin looks like it could be great schlock.

The footage begins with a few unfortunate souls exploring the shadowy, confusing, murky corridors of the Origin and coming across a wounded and unconscious engineer, a freshly fired pistol, a trail of blood, and a sealed door. Naturally, the gathered characters split up – some stay with the body and the others investigate the sealed door. Do they go in? Is it sealed for a reason? What if someone needs help? Does this moral dilemma trigger a flashback to a moment from a character’s traumatic past? Of course it does!

Naturally, they go through the door. And naturally, the unconscious engineer wakes up and immediately warns everyone that they shouldn’t go through that sealed door. Whoops!

And we soon learn why the door was sealed. Something collided with the Origin and left this section of the ship heavily damaged. Thick goo drips from the ceiling. There are holes in the wall suggesting that something has burrowed through metal. Oh, and there’s the crew member who lurches out of the darkness, screaming and out of control, his body contorting like he has a few dozen extra joints in places where human beings shouldn’t have joints. After doing his best Exorcist spider-walk impression, his eyes bulge out of their sockets and he dies painfully and horribly.

So, yeah: whatever caused the bulk of the Origin’s crew to evacuate is bad business, causing its victims to engage in all kinds of vicious body horror, much of which seems to have been achieved practically. This is a YouTube show and everyone is clearly relishing the freedom of the platform – Origin seems to have more in common with something you’d see on HBO, Showtime, or AMC than with network television.

One big question now is whether or not Origin can maintain the creepy nastiness of this footage for an entire season of streaming television. The other big question is whether or not the “Lost in an evil spaceship” set-up will refresh this template or if it’ll blend in with the dozen other shows that have borrowed this format. In any case, Origin looks slick, grisly, and fun. At the very least, this is the kind of thing that could convince a bunch of genre fans to sign up for a YouTube Premium free trial. And it looks expensive enough to suggest that YouTube is really serious about this “competing with Netflix and Hulu” thing.

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