We do love it when things get a little weird. Come on, who doesn’t? So, on the hunt for something that was just the right amount of bizarre, and pretty damn hysterical, I came across French director Quentin Dupieux’s third feature: the horror-ish dark comedy, Rubber. Contrary to what you might think, it’s not about condoms wreaking havoc on a mismatched couple’s measly sex life (sorry, that’s what I had assumed it was about by the title). It’s about…get ready…the misadventures of a maniacal tire called Robert that comes to life and kills people with its psychic powers, in an unassuming desert town! Yep, we’re talking a regular old, seemingly gentle car tire.
The film starts with a group of people gathered outside to watch a “film”, and the Sheriff (Stephen Spinella) informs them that there are moments in cinema, and in life itself, that happen for “no reason.” He finishes with “Ladies and gentleman, the film you are about to see today is an homage to the no reason: the most powerful element of style.” Take this as a word of warning: do not try and demystify Rubber. Don’t start looking for a sneaky pair of eyes on Robert, or some hint that Robert is actually not a tire. He is an unusual tire, but a tire nonetheless.
Rubber stands out from other indie horror films right from the get-go, because obviously the lead character is an inanimate object (and a deathly unattractive one at that). There have been many films featuring inanimate objects that come to life, but they’re mostly tame cartoons like The Brave Little Toaster. Although, who could forget Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive? That was crazy-balls, definitely in the same vein as Rubber. Dupieux sure is experimenting and pushing the boundaries here, and that’s why my ears perked up.
Okay, okay. You’re probably desperate to hear how the hell Robert the tire kills people. Well, he does so by simply “staring” at them so hard he begins to shake, then lining up his target, and BAM. That’s what I admire about it; there are no tricks, bells, or whistles. Robert kills exactly the way you would assume a tire would kill. Those scenes are surprisingly tense, and Robert’s laser-focus keeps our eyes on him.
Robert is in almost every scene, and believe it or not, you actually don’t get tired of it. [Editor’s Note: Ha! “Tired” of it. Get it?!?!] What’s more impressive, you wouldn’t think that a tire could show any emotion, right? But the way it winds and makes ever so subtle movements toward its victims is remarkably effective. When Robert becomes obsessed with a certain lady (you didn’t see that coming, eh?), you actually feel for him in this creepy way–like you’re not supposed to. The moment where she throws Robert out of her hotel room is a turning point, making the film memorable for trying something different. Robert is not just a killing machine, he’s a real character.
The best supporting character in Rubber is the California desert, and it packs in just a good performance as Robert. Dupieux shot the film himself, and hey, he edited it too. Every frame is gorgeous, and used to its advantage. Gaspard Augé’s score is killer, adding a freakish sense of fun to Robert’s insane journey.
IMAGE: Magnet Releasing/Quentin Dupieux/YouTube/ moviemaniacsDE