A horror comedy about a killer tire and blows people's heads off with its telekinetic powers? It's certainly unexpected, not to mention it's very bizarre but Quentin Dupieux's low-budget indie feature, RUBBER, is no doubt one of the most strikingly original motion pictures in recent memory. Made at a measly $500,000 and shot in a high-end Canon EOS 5D Mark II, RUBBER is visually stunning. But the movie's odd concept is downright very bizarre to the point of head-scratching confusion. I kid you not, because RUBBER is the kind of experimental genre that raises the challenge of an outright absurd cinematic experience. How absurd? Let's just say, for example, even fans who adore the bizarre work of David Lynch or David Cronenberg, might find this with a resounding "Huh?"
The movie starts off with a curious but highly-fascinating opening scene where a nerd-looking bespectacled man (Jack Plotnick) is standing in the middle of nowhere, holding a handful of binoculars. From where he stands, there are a series of strategically-placed wooden chairs at the stretch of the road ahead. A car is seen from a distance away, and knocks down the chair one at a time before finally reaches to the destination. Then out comes a man from the trunk. The man happens to be a tall sheriff named Lt. Chad (Stephen Spinella). Standing in front of the screen, he begins to break the fourth wall by giving out an opening monologue about "no reason":
“In the Steven Spielberg’s movie E.T., why is the alien brown? No reason. In LOVE STORY, why that the two character falls madly with each other? No reason. In Oliver Stone’s JFK, why is the president suddenly assassinated by some stranger? No reason. In the excellent CHAINSAW MASSACRE by Tobe Hooper, why don’t we see the character go to the bathroom or wash their hands, just like people do in real life? Absolutely no reason. Worst, in THE PIANIST by Polanski, how come this guy has to hide and lives like a bomb when he can play the piano so well? Once again, the answer is no reason. I could go on for hours with more examples. The list is endless. You probably never give it a thought, but all great films without exception, contain an important element of no reason. And you know why? Because life itself is filled with no reason. Why can’t we see the air all around us? No reason. Why are we always thinking? No reason. Why do some people love sausages and other people hate sausages? No fucking reason. Ladies, gentlemen… the film you are about to see today, is a homage to the no reason. That most powerful element of style".
Once he's done with the opening monologue, he sets off and the nerdy man, known only as the Accountant, goes on to hand out binoculars to a small group of spectators standing there. The binoculars are actually used for viewing purpose of what lies ahead. And that particular purpose is watching the emergence of an old tire (it calls "Robert" as in the credit, but the name is never mentioned in the movie at all -- don't ask) suddenly comes to life and begins rolling by itself through the dust. At first, the tire moves disorderly but gradually it somehow balances its movement as it rolls along. Then at some point, the tire comes across a liquor bottle and begins to vibrate itself. For some reason, it has a telekinetic power and able to blow up the bottle into pieces. The tire moves on, and soon works its way further by blowing up rabbit and eventually (random) people's heads. As the day and night passes by, the tire has finally arrives at the long stretch of highway where it somehow fixates on a sexy French tourist named Sheila (Roxanne Mesquida) who is passing through with her jeep. It follows her all the way to the seedy motel, and subsequently spies on her. Things start to turn bad when a maid (Tara O'Brien) gets her head blown off by the tire, and eventually an investigation is taking place by Lt. Chad. In the meantime, there is someone on the phone instructing the Accountant to poison all the spectators in the desert. So the Accountant brings in a roast turkey for them. All of them are so eager to eat the turkey like hungry animals since they have been starving for weeks (again, don't ask). Except for that one man in a wheelchair (Wings Hauser) who is somehow smart enough not to get caught with the poisonous food and continues to witness the event through the binocular.
Among first few things that naturally pops up upon watching RUBBER are three particular questions of "What?", "Why?" and "How?" But any viewers who are expecting reasonable explanation about the entire bizarre going-on here will be left hugely disappointed. For a movie that is already stressed out it's a homage to no reason, everything happens here is -- guess what -- no reason at all. As extremely absurd as it sounds, the movie still begs an all-important question: What exactly is no reason ideology it tries to deliver here? For some reasons, the movie is supposed to be a satire about movie-within-a-movie but then again, Quentin Dupieux keeps defying all the odds and evens every now and then until it becomes a frustrating experience.
Perhaps Dupieux, or better known as Mr. Oizo, a French electronica musician most popular for his infectious 1999's hit Flat Beat, stretches out his bizarre idea way too long and too broadly abstract into an unnecessary 80-minute length whereas it works more effectively as a 10-minute short. You can blame Dupieux for being overly ambitious as well. If he chooses to maintain the straightforward absurd nature of a tire going on a killing spree, the movie might have been a cheesy guilty pleasure entertainment. Instead he tries too hard to be smart and literal, particularly how the no reason ideology extends further to the point of no return. I'm sure that Dupieux is trying to convey something of a metaphoric explanation but clearly he is no David Lynch or Richard Kelly who made that 2001's cult classic DONNIE DARKO.
While the overall narration doesn't live up to the expectation, the movie remains a visual feast for horror fans. The special effects are exceptionally top-notch, particularly on the exploding heads sequence that instantly recalled David Cronenberg's cult classic SCANNERS (1981). The moving tire effect is convincingly done as well.
RUBBER is a curious beast and one-of-its-kind genre. Despite its many shortcomings, the movie is destined to be a cult classic at some point, one way or another.