I totally expected writer/director Quentin Dupieux’s 2010 horror/comedy “Rubber” to be completely bizarre. After all, you can’t go into a motion picture about a murderous psychokinetic tire with your mainstream mentalities leading the way. However, as strange and unusual as I had anticipated this flick to be, nothing could have really prepared me for the cinematic lunacy contained within this delirious 80-minute jaunt through gore-soaked absurdist horror. And I’m not kidding when I say this movie is weird. Seriously weird. Overwhelmingly weird, so much so that most people probably won’t know what to do with it. Truth be told, I’m not exactly sure how I feel about the whole bloody affair. While a part of me rather enjoyed Dupieux’s oddball endeavor, another section of my brain can’t shake the sensation of abject disappointment.
Don’t get me wrong — there’s definitely a lot to like about “Rubber”. The performances are solid and suitably peculiar, the special effects are top-notch, and Dupieux’s dry sense of humor permeates throughout the entire picture. However, about halfway through the flick, you begin to wonder if the premise would have worked better as a short film. The spectator subplot seems to stick out like a sore thumb, leaving you with the impression that it was used merely to pad this admittedly thin storyline into a full-length feature. Again, it’s not that either section is inherently awful, but they certainly don’t gel as well as the filmmakers would like to think they do. I’ll attempt to explain.
The movie opens with a bold declaration: There is absolutely no reason for the events which are about to transpire. This unexpected information is delivered directly to the camera, as are several examples of things that happen — or, in some cases, don’t happen — in major motion pictures for absolutely no reason whatsoever. That’s perfectly fine by me — I don’t necessarily need to watch a picture with a full-on purpose, especially when I’m delving into the wonky world of low-budget horror. After setting the tone for things to come, we discover that this helpful individual is actually addressing a small group of people who have gathered in the desert to watch a movie. Before getting started, they’re all handed a pair of binoculars and directed to a cast their eyes towards a point somewhere on the horizon. Once they’ve settled in, the rest of the story begins to unfold.
Cut to a grungy tire buried in the sand. After shaking off the dust and quickly mastering the fine art of rolling around on its own accord, this circular menace begins to traverse the barren landscape. It doesn’t take long for the tire’s destructive nature to manifest itself in a couple of different ways. After savagely crushing a helpless water bottle and an icky scorpion, this rubbery villain encounters a discarded beer bottle, an object it cannot destroy simply by rolling across it. Visibility annoyed, the tire begins to vibrate, and a strange sound fills the air. The bottle suddenly explodes, obliterated by the wheel’s mysterious powers. It’s easy to see that the tire has homicide on the brain, and nobody is safe from its unmitigated rage. If you’re a fan of exploding heads — and I’m almost certain that you are — then the ensuing mayhem will suit your morbid sensibilities quite well. Assuming, of course, you can handle the rest of the film’s deranged offerings.
Quentin Dupieux’s decision to jump back and forth between the spectators and the titular monster is puzzling. The concept itself is inherently bizarre, so why needlessly complicate matters by incorporating scenes that only detract from the main reason we’ve signed up for this adventure? I wanted to watch a movie about the misadventures of a maladjusted, misguided killer tire, damn it, not a self-aware, self-referrential comedy that feels the need to constantly wink at its audience. We know the plot is stupid, Dupieux — that’s exactly why we’re here. What purpose did this subplot serve? Was it included simply to fill time? Did the director feel that the premise couldn’t stand on its own two legs? Then again, it’s fruitless to search for answers, as the director has already told you that the film you’re watching is an homage to “no reason”. Kind of a cop out if you ask me.
Maybe it all comes down to expectations. Had I gone into the picture knowing that Dupieux was attempting to blur the line between fantasy and reality, between audience and actor, perhaps these heady concepts wouldn’t have left such a negative impression on me. I was anticipating something a little more straightforward and uncomplicated, something a bit more creature feature and less hipster comedy. After reading this review, I’m sure the filmmakers will point their fingers in my general direction and have a good laugh. They’ll also say that I’ve missed the point entirely, that my low-brow cinematic tastes couldn’t handle the ideas and concepts on-display. And perhaps they’re right. However, I wouldn’t have thought that a movie about a killer tire with psychokinetic powers would be that hard to screw up. To write off “Rubber” entirely is a stupid move, but you’d better be ready to accept this ridiculous flick for what it is. Flaws and all.
Quentin Dupieux (director) / Quentin Dupieux (screenplay)
CAST: Stephen Spinella … Lieutenant Chad
Jack Plotnick … Accountant
Wings Hauser … Man in wheelchair
Roxane Mesquida … Sheila
Ethan Cohn … Film buff Ethan
Charley Koontz … Film buff Charley
Daniel Quinn … Dad
Devin Brochu … Son
Hayley Holmes … Teenager Cindy
Haley Ramm … Teenager Fiona
Cecelia Antoinette … Black woman
David Bowe … M. Hughes
Remy Thorne … Zach