“In Steven Spielberg’s film, E.T., why is the alien brown? No reason.” The opening question and answer from Lieutenant Chad is a seemingly innocent one, but it drives right to the heart of the film he introduces. An homage to the “No Reason” found in films, Rubber is an insanely absurd horror comedy, a bizarre and addictive film that’s not as dark as it could have been, but not as silly either.
The brilliance in Rubber, a movie in which a tire truly does come to life and kill people, is the finely walked line of ridiculousness that writer/director Quentin Dupieux masters fom the opening moment. A moment that begins with Lt. Chad getting out of a car’s trunk and dumping a glass of water in front of a group of spectators. Apparently, this group is also going to watch the movie with us. They are given binoculors and left to themselves to try and figure out exactly what the Hell is happening throughout the film. They work things out the same as we do, even echoing conversations I had internally as events unfolded. Soon, though, there remains only one of the group, as the movie tries to deceive and dispose of it’s own audience. Why? No Reason.
The events that they-and-we follow are simple enough, a tire comes to life, rolls around the desert and figures out how to kill things with it’s mind(?) I guess. At least, we’re lead to think that, though all we see is a shaking tire and an exploding noggin as evidence. As our tire follows the mysterious French woman he encounters on the road (Roxanne Mesquida), it is in turn pursued by the diligent Lt. Chad, (a perfectly deadpan Stephen Spinella). This performance alone is worth the film, as Lt. Chad, aware of the staging these events are under, tries to convince his deputies and everyone else that it’s fake, made up by unseen masters and presented before an audience for undisclosed purposes. And, until that audience dies, Lt. Chad and the rest of the cast have to grudgingly play along in their parts, reading lines and hitting cues until the story is over. Having actual audience members in the film itself is a remarkable sly way to break the fourth wall without ever having to actually do something dumb like address the camera (hint hint Funny Games!) and makes for a crazy existential undercurrent to the whole “Scanners with a tire thing” the movie already has going.
Besides, the “Scanners with a tire thing” that Rubber rolls out with is the best kind of horror comedy. In fact, in the Inanimate Objects That Come To Life And Kill People subgenre of horror, Rubber is maybe the best of the bunch, and that includes such classics as Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Carrie. It makes for fun viewing, if you’re a little sick in the head like me, and a Hell of a drinking game, since this tire explodes it’s fair share of brain buckets. If you can find it, watch Rubber for yourself. It’s not quite like anything I’ve seen before, in it’s weirdly out-of-body way of storytelling and darkly themed explorations on what it means to make a movie, and watch a movie. Why do we do it at all? Why watch a movie about a tire that kills people? No Reason!