Having already killed the trucker who saved the girl from his murderous ways, the psychopath tire turned its attentions to the girl herself. After watching her in the shower, the tire checks into a motel room, watches keep-fit programs on TV, and takes a shower, only to be discovered by a maid, who he promptly kills with his evil oscillations.
If that sentence interests you in any way, then Rubber is most definitely the film for you. Its premise is bizarre, its telling even more so. In 1983, Stephen King and John Carpenter brought us Christine, a car with killing powers of its own; Rubber dispenses with the engine, the bodywork and three-quarters of the tire quota to bring us an equally inanimate killer. Sounds bizarre, doesn’t it?
Robert (the tire’s called Robert in the credits) wakes up in the middle of the Arizona desert, dusts itself off, and starts rolling. Along the way it spots a tin can and rolls over it. Robert likes the way this feels. A scorpion is next, squished into the ground. A rabbit soon follows, only by now Robert has remembered how to quiver manically, causing (I presume) some sort of shock waves to pass over to the rabbit, exploding its head. This tire now has a taste for blood.
I mentioned a girl. She just happens to be driving past as Robert hits the highway, and its interest in her is obvious. The vulcanized generic-brand radial chases her down the road and to the motel mentioned above. Is Robert interested in her destruction or is he, perhaps, a little deflated and in need of a blow(up) job? Certainly Robert’s mood is foul, having recently witnessed men stoking a massive tire-fire out in the desert.
If all of this isn’t quite strange enough for you, then I must tell you more. The entire Robert/killing spree proceedings are being watched by a group of twenty or so spectators up on a nearby clearing, all aided by binoculars. These detached citizens comment on the action as it takes place and mirror our own reactions as we watch. When one remarks to another that the action’s all a bit slow and he’s a smidge bored, it’s exactly what we’re thinking at the time. When the girl’s in the shower, another points out that, although her ass isn’t up to much, she’s got a nice rack. Fourth walls are bent in ways I’ve not quite seen before, and the invention is slick.
Rubber was written and directed by Frenchman Quentin Dupieux, who is better known as music producer Mr. Oizo. You may remember his big 1999 hit, ‘Flat Beat’, that reached number 1 in six countries, despite basically only having one note. Dupieux snagged the public’s attention, though, with his lovable sock puppet; the music was incidental, it was all about that darned puppet. He’s performed a similar act here, taking what is essentially a silly, one-note premise and created something that holds attention — for a while, anyway. It would have been oh so easy to make a National Lampoon-style silly comedy about a killer tire and this is not a silly comedy. It’s not serious, of course, because I defy anyone to make a po-faced movie given this subject matter, but it finds its humor in the bizarre and surreal, rather than punnery and sight gags.
I can’t say that I’m in a hurry to watch it again, but Dupieux has a showman’s flair and ability to sell. The two stories — the tire and the spectators — wrap around each other in ways that both conform to, and defy, the oeuvre in which this movie takes place, and it has an ending that hits its satirical mark square on the nose. Like it or loathe it, you might not see anything quite as bizarre as Rubber for some time.