What the green hell did I just watch? Rubber is, um, interesting. I went to film school, so I am no stranger to esoteric films, films about nothing, surrealistic absurdist avant garde blah blah blah, but this flick is the most “just plain whacked out” cinematic experience I’ve had in a long time, and I watched Subconscious Cruelty last week. This is not to say that it’s a bad film. On the contrary, it’s an extremely well made piece of whatever that was. It was, for the most part, entertaining. The thing is, I'm still not sure what that movie is about, if anything. Maybe I’m just thinking too hard on this one.
I’ll describe the first scene for you. That should tell you what kid of trip you’re in for. A man stands on a road littered with chairs. He’s holding about 30 pairs of binoculars in his hands. Then a car drives up out of the distance, swerving to hit every single chair. When it stops, a man in a police uniform gets out of the trunk, is handed a glass of water by the driver, and addresses the camera. He asks questions like “Why was ET Brown” and “In Tobe Hooper’s Excellent Chainsaw Massacre (?), why don’t we ever see the characters go to the bathroom or wash their hands?” The answer to all of these questions is “no reason.” He tells us that all films are, and life itself is, filled with “no reason.” The film we are about to see, in fact, is an homage to “no reason.” He pours the water out and gets back in the trunk. Then binocular guy hands them out to a group of people standing in the middle of the desert and tells them to enjoy the movie. THAT is the opening minute of the film. Um, what? From there we see the story of a homicidal, psychokinetic tire. A Christine and Carrie amalgam perhaps? Anyway, the tire is pursued by the police while the onlookers with the binoculas, um, look on. Yeah, trying to summarize the plot is pretty much a lost cause. Screw it.
The acting varies in quality. Two performances really stand out. Robert is great as the tire. Considering this is his film debut, he displays the screen presence of a seasoned veteran. He has more natural charisma and acting chops than a lot of the most popular actors of today. I think this might be the beginning of a long and fruitful career for Robert. Stephen Spinella is also great as the sheriff. His deadpan delivery in the midst of the most ridiculous situations anchors the film. He keeps the wacky from becoming too silly, if that makes any sense. Unfortunately, a lot of the supporting characters are pretty flat and/or amateurish. Given the nature and theme of the flick, that may have been intentional however.
From a technical standpoint, Rubber is outstanding. I have absolutely no idea how they got some of the shots with the tire. It will roll forever, stop, change direction, and start rolling again with nothing touching it. I can figure out 99% of the special effects I see, but that one has even me baffled. The cinematography is outstanding, so it is always interesting to look at. The most interesting aspect of the film for horror lovers will probably be the exploding heads. Rubber is chock full of exploding heads. I’m not going to actually go back and check this, but I think it had more exploding heads than the entire Scanners trilogy combined. They look great too.
One issue I had with this movie is the amount of time we spend watching the tire roll. At times it feels never ending. Seriously, there is probably a combined half hour of a tire rolling. That’s it. I understand that it was an artistic choice and fits the “no reason” theme, but that doesn’t make it fun to watch.
The no reason thing itself trips me up. The film purports to have no reason, and things do seem to happen at random throughout. There is a linear story of sorts, but the surrealism takes center stage. It’s played for laughs to a point, but the pace is too slow and the delivery is too deadpan to really count as a comedy. At the same time, my degree-warped brain is screaming at me “Of course there’s a deeper meaning and a reason behind what’s going on.” Movies like this NEVER have “no reason.” It’s pretty clear from the scenes with the onlookers and the closing shot that some kind of commentary about spectatorship and film itself is being made. I think. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Dammit. I’m so confused.
In conclusion, I don’t think I can really rank this movie at this time. I am of the opinion that, like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Clockwork Orange, The Wall, Donnie Darko, or Gothic, this movie can only truly be understood after it’s been watched under the heavy influence of hallucinogenic drugs. I was WAY too sober when I watched this. I definitely recommend it. It’s something you really do need to see for yourself. As far as severed thumbs go, I’m gonna have to track down some mushrooms and watch Rubber again. Then I’ll get back to you. Without them, this flick is just too jam packed with WTF. Nathan says check it out.