The 2003 Movie: OCTANE (Pulse)

Superb for its atmosphere and initial menace, but the ending is a real disappointment. ''Octane' travels down a long, strange highway, but unfortunately gets lost somewhere along the way.

Bijou Phillips

David Menkin
Dylan Smith
Jonathan Rhys-Myers
Leo Gregory
Madeleine Stowe
Mischa BartonMischa Barton<
Norman Reedus
Raffaello Degruttola
Samuel Fröter
Stephen Lord
Directed by: Marcus Adams
Rating: 6/10
Running Time: 91 minutes
Country: United Kingdom







TomatoMeter  Critics 17% | Audience 22%


March 29, 2004

Brian Mckay

Starts as a pretty effective little thriller in the 'Road Trip turns deadly' vein - and then takes a hard left turn into a field full of stupid.

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.

Then there's the mysterious appearance and reappearance of the mythic toilet tissue dispenser that keeps popping up in unexpected places. The set up is that Senga has a bathroom complex - she's convinced that she'll be force to deal with a stall with no toilet paper. So the dispenser in her dreams is, of course always empty in spite have just been refilled. This is one recurring joke that seems to work quite well because it ties into her other manias, one of which is the need to constantly wash her hands. In one funny scene, she washes her hands and since the paper towel dispenser is empty, she uses toilet tissue to very bad effect. Quite silly.

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 diligent 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.




**** Robert Iwatak

I don't know what weird David Lynchian film I ended up watching, but it was immensely terrible. Horrible characters, story, directing. It's an art film masquerading as a thriller, but this art is dime store kitsch. I will say that the only scene worthwhile was Mischa Barton getting a navel piercing.


July 6, 2010

** DrStrangeblog

Super Reviewer

Octane or Pulse, those are TWO completely incongruous random titles they chose to stick on this one! Teenage girl is kidnapped/seduced by a cult with cultdom's flimsiest charter ever that was probably outlined on a napkin with the intention of filling in the rest later. Come to think of it, that's probably how the screenplay was developed too.

I watched this after seeing Madeleine Stowe in the credits, and after 45 minutes of waiting for her to show up I suddenly realized she was the mother of the teenager and onscreen most of the time, and I didn't even recognize her! She has aged very well and a peculiar haircut also threw me off. Without her terrific performance during the first hour (as the final 30 minutes consists solely of running, sneaking, and hiding) this is bargain basement 1-star fodder that doesn't deserve an actress of her quality. Yet she manages to infuse her character with intelligence, wit, and slight dementia to pull me into her predicament. Sadly the shoddy story and plodding camerawork don't contribute anything, and the needless dark, sickly green color scheme doesn't help either.


November 4, 2012

Monica Susie

Grade: E

This is a pretty awful low budget film; watching this really was a waste of my time. The film is about a mother (Madeleine Stowe) and daughter (Mischa Barton) who are on a long car journey back home. During an argument, the daughter runs away and is lurred away by a vampire like cult obsessed with blood and running people over. Gosh this film makes Twilight look pretty tame. In desperation the mother tries everything to save her daughter. This film is just a paranoid and bleak mess; it was far to strange, dark and menacing for my liking. It's just another low budget horror film with a weak under developed story. It's one of those films where its creepiness just puts you off; I hated the music too, it was overy creepy and annoying. I found the film a bit dull; most of the time the mom is going frantic looking for her daughter and chasing the RV van. I didn't think that there were any major plot developments; it went at the same pace. On a more positive note I though Madeleine Stowe was really good as the mom and gave a good performance and Mischa Barton wasn't too bad, but otherwise the performances weren't that memorable. It's definitely not a film I'd ever want to watch again or would recommend. Some of the parts were far too gory, disgusting and went too far, the nastiest past has to be when the leader of the cult bites off this dude's tongue. Pretty nasty stuff. This is kind of a terrible film, I only watched it because I happened to stumble across this film on bbc iplayer. I decided to watch it because it was a boring Sunday afternoon and I had nothing better to do. Wouldn't recommend this at all.


January 22, 2013

* ½ Tebor7471

I don't know what weird David Lynchian film I ended up watching, but it was immensely terrible. Horrible characters, story, directing. It's an art film masquerading as a thriller, but this art is dime store kitsch. I will say that the only scene worthwhile was Mischa Barton getting a navel piercing.


December 1, 2012

***** Melana  O

omg i luv this movie...

the guy is so cute the one that killed the girls father...

yal shuld c it...

omg its lk the best thing...

but there is sorta lk a lot of blood in this movie...






Get Real Player

A tale of the supernatural

Stars: Madeleine Stowe, Norman Reedus, Bijou Phillips ,Mischa Barton

Director: Marcus Adams

A tale of the supernatural, "Octane" draws on America's double obsession with religious cults and the open road. The troubled senga (Madeleine Stowe) is travelling home one night with her tormenting teenage daughter, Nat (Mischa Barton), when they start to see the craziest things…a couple picnicking by car-crash sites, a baby crawling up the white line in the middle of the road, and a lone recovery man (Norman Reedus) trawling the roads for new accidents. At a roadside coffee shop, Nat mysteriously disappears, but the people that offer to help are not what they seem.

Release Date 14h Nov 2003


Octane (Pulse)    (2003)

Driven by Evil

In the dark, in the aftermath of a bloody freeway accident, paramedics tend to a man lying trapped in the car. As police sirens are heard approaching, one paramedic says to another 'Move it!', and they brusquely tear the man screaming from the wreckage, gag him, and flee the scene. From this creepy opening, 'Octane' takes the freeways, lay-bys, truckstops and roadside restaurants that most of us only ever pass through, and turns them into a twilit netherworld where people vanish without trace, freakish blood rites are performed and one's deepest nightmares must be confronted.

As Senga (Madeleine Stowe) drives interstate through the night, she starts becoming convinced that something is not right. It might just be all the caffeine and uppers she's been taking to keep her eyes open, or the constant strain of arguing in the car with her rebellious teenage daughter Nat (Mischa Barton), but Senga finds something menacing in all the fellow-travellers that they encounter – even the free-spirited young hitchhiker (Bijou Phillips) that Nat finds so alluring. So when Nat storms off after a vicious argument, and is last seen driving away in a winnebago with the hitcher and another woman, Senga begins a frantic search, not sure whether she can trust the tricks her mind seems to be playing on her, let alone the police, or the strange recovery man (Norman Reedus) with the tow truck who seems to be wherever she goes.

'Octane' sets itself up to be surrealist noir, buzzing with edgy atmosphere and insomniac paranoia (aided by the excellent soundtrack of Paul 'Orbital' Hartnell), as its characters wonder around seeminly trapped in transit between all normal reference points. When Senga is not out on the motorway, bathed in the clinically moody blue of road lamps and flashing police lights, she finds herself at strange stopping points that exist in glorious isolation from the rest of the world. 'Who are all these people? What are they all doing here? What are we doing here?' she asks, as she sits in a 1950s style diner in the middle of nowhere, its lurid decor seemingly frozen for eternity in some parallel universe dreamt up by David Lynch or J.G. Ballard.

Unfortunately this effectively eerie atmosphere is let down by the ridiculous dénouement, which tries too hard to be too many things at once – a cultic update of the vampire myth, a revenger's tragedy, a psychodrama about abortion anxieties – and ends up being an unholy mess of pro-life propaganda, tongue abuse and silly slash-and-dash. If only they had aborted the ending.


Superb for its atmosphere and initial menace, but the ending is a real disappointment. 'Octane' travels down a long, strange highway, but unfortunately gets lost somewhere along the way.


Reviewed by Jamie Russell

13 November 2003

* Reviewed by Jamie Russell

Clocking up miles without ever actually going anywhere, Octane is an endless U-turn of a road movie/horror film that's as insulting as it is moronic, and as tedious as it is retarded.


Following up his lacklustre debut Long Time Dead, director Marcus Adams continues to squander what little smattering of talent he has by taking on dreadful scripts (this one by Stephen Volk, of The Guardian infamy) and trying to shape them into halfway decent films.

To ensure success on both sides of the pond, Octane plays like an American studio picture, focusing on the teenage market with its story of a stressed out mother Senga (Madeleine Stowe) driving her daughter Nat (Mischa Barton) along a deserted stretch of freeway late at night. Strange happenings are afoot, though. After an encounter with a teenage hitchhiker (Bijou Phillips), Nat is snatched by a bizarre cult obsessed with blood rituals.


At which point the movie slips out of first gear and into reverse, blowing its gearbox and causing a monumental movie pile-up in the process, as the plot disintegrates into complete incomprehensibility. We're left with the burning wreckage of a vaguely enticing premise as Volk throws vampires, Satanists, and psychotherapy into the mix in a join-the-dots script that he obviously didn't get round to finishing before shooting commenced.

While Adams has lost none of his arty pretensions - close-ups of cigarettes burning and inserted snippets of video game footage conspire to give this some visual depth - the script's complete disregard for narrative logic is nothing short of an insult.

"We are bombarded with answers, but are we asking the right questions?" rasps a TV advert at one point. By the end of Octane, there's only one question that matters: just how stupid do they think we are?



Breakaway Film Review

7 March 2012


BreakawayDaily (Canada)

When I saw the amazing "car scene," in which Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is seducing Misha Barton on a vintage car while a gigantic wind blower sets the mood, I knew I had to check it out! The scene was so cinematic, it was something I have never watched before, it was breathtaking and seductive. I thought I had scene every "vampire" film known to man, but somehow I missed this gem.

I love these types of films because they keep you guessing the whole time. You are on the edge of your seat, or in my case, hanging on tightly to your pillow. They don't tell you everything, you have to figure a lot of things out. That way of thinking is what you might love, or hate about this movie. The whole time you don't know who these strange people are that keep showing up, or what they want..until the end. A lot of the film is metaphorical. They are not your typical "vampires," they drink blood but they don't grow fangs or have black eyes.

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who steals the movie (even though he is only in about 15 minutes of it) plays The Father. He is the leader of a cult who takes those that are metaphorically lost, usually girls though not always, to "show them enlightenment." The Father believes that through the use of blood, you reach the stars. One of the best quotes from the film is when he says "no one bound by chains ever reached the sun." Jonathan Rhys Meyers uses his trademark sensuality into a great performance. It is unfortunate, however, that his character "The Father," is given such short on screen time. You are left wanting to know more about The Father, and wish they would have spent more time on what he was doing throughout the whole film. He is a symbol for sexuality and because it looks so good on him one roots for Barton to accept his advances and ditch her mother's increasingly silly attempts to save her.

Essentially it is a story about a mother and daughter, and how the daughter is feeling sexual energy for the first time and moving away from her mother. The mother doesn't want what happened to her to happen to her daughter.

Really underrated thriller.