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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 23.53%
Average: 23.53%
Pretty Bad52.94%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 11 user ratings

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Pulse (Octane)
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by Brian McKay

"Starts out with a full tank, ends up on fumes"
2 stars

Okay, it's movie geek crush confession time. I've always had a bit of a thing for the dark-eyed and raven-haired beauty Madeleine Stowe. Although her film resume' is the very definition of "Hit and Miss", she has always proven herself a competent and reliable actress. Her performance in OCTANE is no exception, even though the initially promising film ends up floundering in the "Miss" column.

Stowe plays Senga Wilson, a career driven single mom who is driving her teenage daughter Natasha (Mischa Barton) home from a visit with her Dad. Obviously, the divorce was not an amicable one, and the tension from it has spilled over into Senga's relationship with her daughter, as the two spend most of the first act getting on each other's nerves.

Meanwhile, a Winnebago full of weirdos is out on the highway causing accidents, mayhem, and murder. The local cops are clueless (as they usually are in these types of films), but a tow truck driver known only as the "Recovery man" (Norman Reedus of Boondock Saints and Blade 2, wasted here in a throwaway role) is on to them. He's looking for a little payback, since he believes them responsible for his kid sister's death.

When Senga and Nat get into a big argument at a rest stop diner, the girl storms off into the ladies room. When she doesn't come out soon, Senga gets worried and goes looking for her - only to spot her through the diner window, as she gets into a Winnebago full of strangers out in the parking lot. Somehow, they manage to get away and out of sight in the thirty seconds it takes Senga to get outside (they're in a Winnebago, mind you). Seeing a cop car in the parking lot, she frantically tries to enlist the aid of the officer inside. The cop tells her to stay put and wait for detectives while she chases down the 'Bago, but somehow she doesn't seem too concerned over Natasha's abduction - and that makes Senga suspicious. When she follows the cop at a distance, her worst fears are confirmed - her daughter has been taken by some kind of bizarre cult.

Granted, this premise is nothing terribly new, but it still manages to be effective during the first half of the film, as the mother-daughter relationship is carefully developed and the film slowly builds a sense of tension and foreboding. For a good hour of its running time, Octane is a pretty effective little thriller in the "Road Trip turns deadly" vein.

And then, somewhere in between the second and third act, it takes a hard left turn into a field full of stupid. The remaining minutes feel rushed and generic, almost as if they were tacked on from a different (and much inferior) film. Led by a posturing pretty boy called "The Father" (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) who is about as menacing as Ryan Seacrest, the so-called cult is apparently just an excuse to drink blood, do a lot of drugs, and have an orgy. The Recovery Man keeps showing up and then disappearing long enough to go blow something up, saying about twelve words in the entire movie. Most ludicrous of all, The Father seems to have some kind of supernatural or psychokinetic powers, but ones which are poorly defined and lack even a semblance of credibility.

One of the film's biggest failings is the inconsistent tone with which Natasha's character is drawn. In one scene, she tells her mother " You think I'm going to go do drugs and get pregnant young, like you did? I'm not that stupid." Forty minutes later, what is she doing? Getting high and having sex with strangers. Guess you are that stupid after all, Nat. The vacillation between what appears to be a fairly level-headed teen to a stereotypically stupid party girl is almost as annoying as the film's sudden about-face from a halfway-respectable psychological thriller to an illogical and tedious affair of the direct-to-video kind.

If the film has a saving grace, it's the dilligent performance from the always-dependable Stowe. Unfortunately, she's not enough to save OCTANE from bad writing, gaps of logic, and utterly forgettable supporting characters. Miss Stowe, I offer the following friendly advice - next time, read the whole script before you sign on the dotted line.

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originally posted: 03/27/04 13:20:06
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 CineVegas Film Festival. For more in the 2003 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 San Francisco Horror Film Festival. For more in the 2004 San Francisco Horror Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/06/09 mr.mike Watched the edited TV version , wasn't too bad. 3 stars
10/13/07 papabear Liked the film, but not the sound track. It does NOT contain all of the music in the film. 4 stars
12/20/06 Dan made me think. bijou anyways...couldve made a much better film with that character... 4 stars
9/18/06 Melissa I'm a Stowe fan but NOT a Mischa Barton Fan. Confusing movie full of holes. Bleh. 2 stars
7/26/05 Lisa I like the movie of course I Like these kind of movies 4 stars
2/02/05 Amy Okay, but still don't fully understand the ending! What happened?!?! 3 stars
11/14/04 Becky Great symbolism! Made me really think! 4 stars
9/26/04 Mallory Not that bad, but the ending was lame. 3 stars
8/19/04 Robert A. Strupp Ending did not make sense. 2 stars
4/28/04 James (Jaimie) Throck It's Not That Bad 3 stars
4/04/04 pat pretty stiupid 2 stars
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  20-Jul-2004 (R)
  DVD: 20-Jul-2004



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