9 September 2006 | drownnnsoda
Surreal, Nightmarish Road-Trip Terror.
While a lot of people are going to disagree with me, I think "Octane" (aka "Pulse") is an underrated horror movie. The film begins with a horrible car accident scene, where a dying man is suffering within the wreckage. A squad of impostor medical workers show up on the scene, but soon scramble to leave the scene after the actual medical crew arrives. We are then introduced to Senga Wilson (Madleine Stowe) and her teenage daughter, Natalie (Mischa Barton), who are on a late-night road trip on their way back home. Senga gets tired at the wheel, nearly crashing the car, but insists that she's fine and that they need to get home because Nat has school the next morning. After convincing her mother to stop, Nat and Senga enter a truck stop for a coffee-break. The people within the truck stop seem a little weird too. After picking up a disappearing hitchhiker (Bijou Phillips), Senga and Nat get into a heated argument, and Natalie runs off with the hitchhiker (who re-appears) and a group of strange people. Now it's up to Senga to get her daughter back from the blood-letting cult, with the help of a truck-driver (Norman Reedus) who also is aware of the psychotic blood-drinkers.
The whole film's idea and premise is intriguing, albeit a little strange. While this film may seem like a clichéd horror flick, "Octane", also known as "Pulse" from the video release, has a lot more going for it. The story is fairly well-written, the cinematography is very stylish and adds an eerie texture to the movie, the music is surreal and fitting, and the performances were all-around well done. The foreboding atmosphere of no escape is extremely consistent throughout the film, giving the movie a surreal and nightmarish feeling that works for the film's benefit. The entire thing almost seems like one big bad dream that you can't escape, and I think that is what made this film so interesting to me.
The movie was nicely shot and has some really eerie sequences tied into the plot, mostly Senga's encounters with the bizarre, extensive group of cult members that seem to run the entire area, mostly in the strange little off-road truck stops along the way. The opening is a great start, and the last twenty minutes or so- while they are a little strange - work out well and were all the more bizarre. Madeleine Stowe and Mischa Barton have surprisingly good chemistry, and play their roles as the troubled single-mother and the rebellious, bratty teenage daughter. I like both Stowe and Barton as actresses, and they do a good job here. The rest of the cast gives good performances also, nothing I saw was necessarily bad.
Although "Octane" has a few minor flaws (mostly some of the semi-confusing material that the plot revolves around and leaves unexplained), the film is done with a distinct surreal style, and uses some great imagery and a haunting score. While most people disagree, I think this film isn't nearly as bad as the reputation it seems to have. Granted, it's one strange movie, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's bad. 7/10.