NOTE: Rubber has been promoted onto the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies of All Time; the official Certified Weird entry is here.
DIRECTED BY: Quentin Dupieux
FEATURING: Stephen Spinella, Jack Plotnick, Wings Hauser, Roxane Mesquida, Robert the Tire
PLOT: A group of strangers is assembled in the desert, given binoculars, and told to watch.
Through their lenses they see a tire come to life, roll around, and develop explosive psychokinetic powers. A heavy amount of death and destruction follows.
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: I think the “sentient rubber tire goes on a killing spree” premise is strange enough to consider it for the List, but the framing of the story as a metafiction involving some self-aware actors, a homicidal accountant, and frequent commentary from a famished “audience” reveals an added layer of weirdness as well as refreshing imagination.
COMMENTS: A number of flimsy wooden chairs sit haphazardly on a dirt road in a desert locale. A cop car drives up and manages to hit everyone single one. Police officer Lt. Chad (Spinella) pops out of the trunk of the car, takes out a glass of water, and proceeds to address the audience with ruminations on the presence of “no reason” in film. Why is ET brown? Why do the characters in Love Story fall in love? Why doesn’t anyone ever go to the bathroom or wash their hands? No reason. Even in real life the phenomenon exists. Why can’t we see the air all around us? Why do some people love sausages and other people hate them? No reason. He explains that Rubber itself is “an homage to the no reason, that most powerful element of style.”
It’s nice to have a straightforward, bluntly in-your-face preface like that, especially when the film that follows really does its best to live up to the officer’s words. The story rolls along as aimlessly as its star tire, reeling in new characters and letting them go just as easily, and leaving a trail of bodies in its wake. There is never an attempt at explanation- how did this tire “wake up” and take on a life of its own? Just how much does it understand? Why can it makes things explode? Just who is in charge here? Everything can be chalked up to “no reason” and the audience can sit back and enjoy the ride.
Of course, not much actually happens in Rubber. There’s only so far one can go with a silent killer tire in an isolated desert. With pleasing special effects, Robert the tire rolls around, crushes a few bottles, mutilates a few wayward animals, and blows up the heads of whatever jerks get in his way while pursuing a pretty lady to a motel and enjoying the finer things in life, like late-night television programming. The police step in when the bodies start to stack up, and conspire to destroy him through subterfuge. Throughout it all, the squabbling “audience” in the desert gives their own commentary, cutting in during the requisite shower scene and other horror-movie clichés. When the characters in the film sleep, they sleep. It soon becomes clear that they’re trapped out there, left to the mercy of a sadistic “Accountant” (Plotnick) who takes his time feeding them. The function of this audience is never explained (of course), but they seem to serve both as a satirical Greek chorus and a joke on the actual audience.
The concept and script begin to lose steam towards the end, but Dupieux smartly keeps his film to a trim 82 minutes, and the innovative meta-film approach, alarmingly high body count, and general irreverence ensure a fun (and weird) time is had by all. The hilarious performance by Spinella and the ridiculous ending give it an extra layer of enthusiasm.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY: