Most of you, sadly, haven’t heard of the great uber-low-budget horror film called Rubber; a smart, meta film about a psychokinetic killer tire. Out on VOD now and in theatres April 1st, this Magnet Releasing gem has been making the film festival circuit since last fall, and I’m wildly happy to see it getting even a limited theatrical release.
You read correctly, the main character is a tire. It has psychokinetic powers. It blows people up just for the fun of it as it rolls aimlessly through the desert to mellow 70s tunes. It falls for a woman it sees in a convertible and follows her to a cheap motel. It takes showers (and watches others take showers).
This movie is so gloriously fresh and the concept so novel, I’m amazed it hasn’t attained more buzz. Ok, I guess some people simply wouldn’t be interested in watching a movie about a tire on a killing spree. But what they’re missing is a meta-magnificent film that’s a lot smarter, quirkier and bizarre than 99 percent of the indie horror films circulating now.
Though low on actual horror, the homage to horror films is what makes this film work so well. I mean, there are plenty of exploding heads, and some exploding desert creatures, but the stand-out concept of the film is what makes it so worth a watch.
It starts out in the middle of a scraggly desert landscape. A man in a suit is setting up chairs with no real order, and then a car drives up and knocks down every one of those chairs, slowly. When it stops, the trunk pops open and out pops Lieutenant Chad (Stephen Spinella). Chad tells the audience that things in movies are always happening for no reason, only most people don’t even realize it. That sets up the strangeness, and it just keeps rolling.
A strange collection of people appear there with binoculars and watch the events happening in the “movie.” Kind of like a Greek chorus. They comment on what’s happening, and bicker, and eventually Chad tries to kill them all off with a poisoned turkey (because, if the “spectators” are dead, then he can tell everyone that none of it’s real). It’s a great study in the relationship between the audience and a movie’s characters and the story itself. Maybe too meta, yes, but at least thought-provoking without being boring or self-righteous.
Rubber has some great homage moments to other great films, horror and non-horror alike. There’s a scene where Robert (the tire) jumps into the pool and sinks to the bottom and just sits there. Like Dustin Hoffman in his diving suit in The Graduate.
Watching Robert first wiggle out of a desert trash dump is like watching a hatchling first coming out of the egg and trying its wings (I assume that’s why the Greek chorus look like bird watchers). It finds it can run things over, and the things it can’t run over it can blow up with its psychokinetic powers. It seems to like blowing animals up, and people‘s heads. The special effects are so bad they’re good again. The cops, lead by Chad, are circling in on the tire and its blowing up more heads trying to keep them from discovering it. Robert roles up to a tire-burning facility, and as it watches its kind get burned in huge mountains, the film cuts to three days later. All we see are scenes of carnage. Corpses everywhere with their heads exploded, and Robert holed up in a house with the cops closing in.
Written and directed by Quentin Dupieux, better known as an electric musician, Rubber is completely bizarre and funny and self-aware. In a nice change, the ending is strong and ominous (as ominous as anything in a film about a killer tire can be). Do yourself a favor and watch it.
The killer tire concept is great and the bizarre humor works very well, making this a wholly enjoyable film.