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REVIEW – Rubber

Directed by: Quentin Dupieux
Produced by: Gregory Bernard, Julien Berian, Kevos Van Der Meiren
Written by: Quentin Dupieux
Edited by: Quentin Dupieux
Cinematography by: Quentin Dupieux
Music by: Gaspard Augé, Mr. Oizo
Starring: Stephen Spinella, Roxane Mesquida, Jack Plotnick, Wings Hauser, Ethan Cohn, Charley Koontz, Haley Ramm, Hayley Holmes, Daniel Quinn, Devin Brochu, David Bowe, Remy Thorne, Robert
Year: 2010

 

You didn’t think that my long absence from writing would mean that I was totally skipping Halloween 2019 entirely, did you? No sir. In fact, I’m hoping that this review will serve as a means of kicking me in the rear and getting me writing on a regular schedule again. While I had hoped that I would find motivation sooner in the month so as to provide you, my hypothetical reader, with a return to the month-long series of Halloween reviews, as the old saying goes, “Better late than never.” Maybe Christmas will turn out better? Speaking of things turning out better than expected, have you seen the movie Rubber? (Insert cliché joke about hacky segues.)

This is a question that a number of people have asked me over the years, and my answer has always been, “Not yet, but it’s in my Netflix queue waiting for me to finally get around to it.” Needless to say, I never got around to it – until now, of course, but it was always one of those movies that I forgot about until it was brought up again and then always intended to watch within a day or two so that I could answer the person who brought it up with my thoughts on this particular film, but, inevitably, I would forget about it, and then said person might bring it up again, asking if I saw it yet, but I hadn’t, and then we would both inevitably forget about it yet again until sometime later, usually whenever the subject of bad movies would come up. People seem to really think that Rubber is either a bad movie or just a movie that’s trying to send up bad horror movies by taking a hokey scenario to an absurd extreme (see also: Zombeavers). I spent much of this time since first hearing about this movie thinking it was, in fact, the latter, as usually film buffs like myself always seemed to regard it with some level of fondness. But to be perfectly honest, now that I’ve seen it, I’m not so certain that the movie falls into either category – at least not so neatly.

In case you haven’t heard, Rubber is ostensibly a film about a sentient tire that goes around killing people with its psychokinetic powers. That’s pretty much how it’s always been recounted to me, at least, and yes, indeed, that is a major element that factors into this movie’s overall… state of being. There’s plenty of gore as the tire flexes its capacity for destruction, first delighting in discovering that it can destroy things by running them over while roaming a relatively barren desert and then quickly escalating to blowing up defenseless creatures and eventually heads with its aforementioned and inexplicably existent mental capabilities. (If you think a sentient tire rolling around of its own free will is absurd, wait until you get a load of what it does next! It’ll blow your mind!) There’s also a thin plot going on wherein the tire becomes creepily obsessed with a girl it spots driving down the road, and the tire does some predictably creepy stalker-killer things like secretly looking in on her while she showers, which is pretty much par for the course with crappy horror movies, except for the fact that it’s a tire, and somehow that tire is giving us a shockingly effective performance without ever having to open its mouth. You know, because it doesn’t have one.

 

What I wasn’t prepared for, though, given all that I had heard and known about this movie, was the other plot that’s going on, wherein a local sheriff opens the movie by reciting for the audience a speech about the importance of reason in film – the why of why things happen – and, you know, just how unimportant reasons are in making a film good. And then, it turns out, that the sheriff has actually gathered for himself an actual audience in this desert, one that watches the tire story unfold from afar with binoculars while bickering with one another about plot details and, you know, the logic behind them, and, you know, forgetting that they’re in a group of people where some would prefer to watch the action unfold in silence and not have a bunch of rude people ruining it for them. You’d think that this would make the film some sort of commentary on the act of filmmaking and film watching, with the sheriff pulling all the strings and staging the tire’s murderous rampage… but it really seems like the tire thing is actually happening, and the line between artifice and reality is, at the very least, a bit blurred within the context of Rubber’s reality.

If I had to make a guess, I’d say that the sheriff is a schlocky horror film director and the audience is, more specifically, a test screening audience, as they are frequently tended to by an accountant who checks in on them. But, even then, this interpretation feels fruitless, as there’s more going on between this group of people, the sheriff, and the accountant, almost completely separate from the goings on relating to the supernatural, serial killer tire.

My other guess – my best guess, in fact – is that the sheriff’s opening monologue is meant to set the tone for the rest of the movie. There is no reason. And if the seeming filmmaker stand-in sheriff doesn’t seem to understand the reason in other movies and doesn’t seem to understand what is going on in his own production, why are we expecting the production he’s starring in alongside his audience and the monster he’s chasing to have any reason? We watch movies, ultimately, because they are there to be watched, and the very fact that people are then analyzing it to death is also, in itself, perhaps a good enough reason for it to exist.

So, Rubber ultimately ended up being not nearly as Halloween-appropriate as I had believed it to be, but it’s rather appropriate that the occasion that is this holiday led to me both regretting that I neither watched enough nor wrote about a lot of the horror films I’d been meaning to watch and write about this season, and yet it also provided me with the motivation to both get writing again in the first place and finally see this movie that I’ve always been meaning to see – even if it did mean having to sign up for a free trial to some monster movie-themed channel on Amazon to do so now that it’s left not on any of the other services I’m subscribed to, including Netflix. And, luckily, even though my expectations of a straightforward send-up of gory, cheesy B-movies were ultimately subverted, it wound up being exactly the kind of movie that I was in the mood for. I guess that’s reason enough to give this amusingly absurd film a shot.

The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 3 / 5

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