Quentin Dupieux, better known in pop musical circles as electronica maestro Mr. Oizo, and whose first film was Steak (2007), has now created an experimental cinematic experience called Rubber. Part horror film parody, part cultural commentary, and part spiritual odyssey, its artistic success depends largely on the audience’s mood, patience, and acceptance of Rubber’s core concept: a killer tire (named “Robert”) rises from the dump and goes on a random murder spree, not running people down, but making their heads explode via psychic vibration. Why? No reason. Which is exactly the point of this purposely pointless yet nonetheless intriguing exercise in outré filmmaking. It is also mildly entertaining and somewhat provocative, in both a light-hearted and heavy-handed sort of way. This tire takes some crazy twists and turns that keeps the audience – on both side of the screen, since the film comes with its own built-in “spectators” – watching with bemused interest. The bleak desert setting has dutifully served as an ominous backdrop for horror movies from Them! (1954) and Tarantula (1955) to both versions of The Hill Have Eyes (’77 and ’06), though here it just comes off as the most cost effective space in which to roll an inanimate tire with a homicidal agenda. The human actors, including Stephen Spinella, Jack Plotnick, veteran Wings Hauser and beautiful Roxane Mesquida, all seem in on the joke, making the most of their sparse, silly lines amid the sporadic gore and nonsensical situations.
Not quite as absurdist as Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978), and not nearly as sophisticated as The Birds (1963), Hitchcock’s masterpiece about our feathered friends suddenly and inexplicably slaughtering humanity, Rubber is neither scary nor particularly funny, despite its preposterous premise. It is, however, very, very strange and different, qualities always welcomed in today’s cloned culture. It may have similar appeal to last year’s much more graphic and depraved “deliberately cult” movie The Human Centipede, due to its similarly iconoclastic themes and bizarre atmosphere where stilted acting and ridiculous dialogue seem perfectly in sync with the dreamlike surroundings.
Why should you bother to see this unique film? Or conversely, why not see it?
Rubber opens for a limited engagement at the Lumiere in San Francisco and the Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley on Friday, April 1. No fooling.
Will “the Thrill” Viharo is a pulp fiction author and B movie impresario.