Director: Quentin Dupieux
Cast: Stephen Spinella, Roxane Mesquida, Wings Hauser
Plot: A serial killer goes on a deadly rampage across California, killing everyone in his wake. The twist: the serial killer is a tyre.
The film opens with a group of chairs lined up in the road. A man holding several shoes waits on that road, calmly. After a few beats, a car shows up and begins knocking over those chairs, one by one. Then, a police Lieutenant climbs out of the boot and calmly explains to an audience that has just materialised onto the road that movies don’t have to make sense. We are beginning to get that feeling too.
Enter our anti-hero, a killer tyre. This is the kind of movie that people watch, including me, because they want to see how a director can make a 90 minute movie out a rubber tyre that goes around and kills people with his telepathic powers. The director takes the easy option, and in all honesty, the best option, and asks us not to question the existence of the killer tyre. He just wakes up, realises that he is a living tyre and explores the world. As the police lieutenant told us less than a minute ago, movies don’t have to make complete sense. Once you have let the shock settle, the tyre does, surprisingly, make for an interesting character. There is something child-like about it, when it first wakes up. The first few moments of the film show the tyre gaining momentum, trying to work out how to actually stay upright and we are reminded of watching a baby animal on the discovery channel or, probably a better metaphor, a child learning to ride a bike. It follows up by finding objects and playing with them, like a bottle on the ground or a puddle of water. Soon, it escalates to killing animals and humans that have wronged him.
The tyre actually makes a decent villain too. There is something subtly Hannibal Lecter-esque about him, as he only kills people that have offended him. Sure, these humans don’t see any harm in throwing an abandoned tyre left lying in a hotel room, not realising that they are getting on the wrong side of a very dangerous monster. It is the anger in this ‘thing’ that dials the creepy factor up. Before it telepathically blows someone’s head off, it shudders uncontrollably, and it feels like the murder is made of nothing but pure malice. There is also the fact that this tyre is willing to follow the driver that knocked him over for miles, until he gets the kill. While no one tries to make this a scary movie, afterwards, when you sit and think about it, this tyre could be up there with the scariest movie monsters to come after you. To get the movie going, the tyre develops an obsession with the first human he sees, a pretty woman who conveniently doesn’t lock doors, when she takes a shower in creepy motel rooms. Again, this is a plot point that is never really brought up other than ‘just because’ and it becomes apparent that she is little more than a narrative device. In fact, a lot of this movie is little more than narrative devices.
Eventually, it becomes apparent that this movie isn’t really about a killer tyre at all, but is an avant-garde look at cinema itself. As the killing spree gets underway, the film cuts back to that audience that materialised at the beginning. They watch from afar, treating the events like they are watching a movie. It is a surreal direction style and we end up waiting for the point to kick in. However, the dots are never connected. We get all of these jokes about the characters in the story working with a dreadful script, audience members being chastised for talking during proceedings and the fact that everyone acting here seems to just want the movie to end, so they can go home. However, because the movie never reveals a true point, it feels like this is little more than observational comedy, rather than a film dissecting cinema. There is nothing overly wrong with that, but suddenly this film that always seems like it is about to get really intelligent or artistic any moment, ends up doing random things for cheap laughs. That is the thing that gets to you after the viewing.
This film just enjoys its skin-deep style too much. I get that it wants to poke fun at cinema and I applaud it for being something a little different. However, when the avant-garde stuff begins to get in the way of the killer tyre, I begun to question where the director is trying to get at. While I said that the tyre was an interesting character, it could have been taken further and there were times I wondered if they accidentally conveyed personality, or maybe I was being too desperate to find intelligence in a B-Movie.
Final Verdict: Rubber wants to be unique, and it certainly achieves that, but too much random spoils proceedings. However, it does make a successfully funny story about a serial killer tyre.