I decided that for the first (hopefully) annual Horror Movie Week here on The Film Dump that I’d cover a varied bunch of horror movies and I don’t think you can get much more unique a horror film to kick off this variety with than Rubber. Some would argue that it’s not a horror. It’s not a scary film that’s for sure, 100% played for laughs, but it is a film about a rubber tire, named Robert, that is blowing up heads. It’s also a very intelligent dissection of film and how we watch it. Click the link for my review.
Whilst Rubber has a basic story at it’s core right from the beginning you’re told that that isn’t as important as the films element of “no reason”. From the very first scene the fourth wall is broken and you’re told, by the character of Lieutenant Chad (Stephen Spinella), that all films feature a small element of no reason. Why was E.T. brown for example. We’re told that this film is a celebration of no reason and from that moment you’re set up to accept whatever illogical and random incidence may happen. In this scene Lieutenant Chad is actually talking to an off camera (at the time) audience. This is a group of characters all watching the events of the actual film via binoculars in the middle of a desert. Why? No reason.
Whilst we move back to this audience the films “story”, if you could call it that, is of a car tire that has come to life and discovered it’s joy of killing. The cinematography (handled by the films master of everything Quentin Dupieux) is so good that you’ll not only believe a rubber tire has a personality but you understand it’s character arc and it’s emotions. From the moment it first crushes a plastic bottle under…tire… you understand that it’s realised that it enjoys destroying things. Pretty soon the tire has developed psycho-kinetic powers which it uses to blow up a few small animals and eventually the heads of anyone that crosses his path. Why does the tire have psycho-kinetic powers? No reason.
I want to really talk about the cinematography here. Quentin Dupieux is more commonly known to the world as musician Mr Oizo. I have never known anyone in the music industry to have such exceptional control over the art of film. Usually when a musician tries to make the leap to films, cos they need that second revenue stream you see, what you end up with is Purple Rain and those Madonna films. Oh and Moonwalker but if anyone disses that film I’ll punch them in the pancreas. Generally I’d say most musicians should just stick to what they know and avoid films all together. Dupieux, as far as I’m concerned, should leave music and make movies. His shot composition, his mise-en-scene, his every frame is beautifully crafted and shows an incredible skill for film making. He’s so good I’d say that he needs to avoid the studios and do nothing but art films such as Rubber. There’s elements of Luis Bunuel and the use of an inanimate object as a character recalls the films of Jan Svankmajer. For a film that could have easily been a bizarre comedy he sure has woven plenty intelligent visual design. It would have been so easy for this film to just be a funny silly film but he goes to extremes to make sure your brain is working a little more than the average horror spoof would.
Rubber is not a film for everyone though. It’s fourth wall breaking story and it’s constant discussion of cinematic tropes could easily be a point of contention for anyone expecting a film just about a tire blowing heads up. Also the humour can be very dry which isn’t always everyone’s cup of tea. To add to this the more hardened cinema lovers may get a little annoyed when the film fails to question missteps in it’s story telling logic, such as how the cops knew about the girl the tire was following. I’d guess it was no reason, but you’d expect a character viewing the film within the film to have pointed this out.
What anyone should get is the little zombie movie jokes. So many scenes are shot directly as they would have been in a George A Romero or Lucio Fulci horror. They’re cinematic tropes, such as the zombie digging its way out of the ground or the final scene (which I won’t spoil) that every audience is familiar with and will “get” straight away. A personal favorite is a scene there the audience in the film are given a turkey to eat. They’re starving at this point and the scene is shot just like a zombie flesh eating scene from… well… Zombie Flesh Eaters.
It’s a sign of how far modern low budget film making has come that such an effective and artistic film can not only get made and released but is done to such a high standard of visual clarity and inventiveness. A few years back George Lucas (of all people) was saying he can see a time when film budgets start to drop dramatically as the technology available in peoples homes improves. The fact this film was made for half a million dollars (the same amount as the equally impressive Monsters) really hammers home just how right Lucas may well be. Just search for Freddie Wong on youtube to see what’s doable with store brought video editing and effects software. Although he does have an edge by being a profession effects artist. Makes you wonder why some films need to have a budget in excess of $100million. Are you getting 200 times the visual quality there? Or 200 times the performance from the cast? Obviously the latter is unquantifiable but you see my point.
I recommend Rubber mostly to those that are either avid fans of film, film making or to anyone that really liked that scene in scanners when the dudes head blew up. I’m certainly going to be keeping an eye on Mr Oizo’s next film entitled Wrong. Who knows, one day he might be a hero of low budget artsy cinema and be getting studied at film schools around the world. Or someone will have convinced people that modern day hacks like James Cameron, Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich are worthy of study. If that happens I think I will have given up on cinema entirely though. There’s only one reason people would be studying them though and that is, of course, no reason.