Welcome to the world of Rubber. It’s undoubtedly a film that’s going to divide audience opinion. It has ‘minority’ credentials in that it’s an independent, low budget movie developed by a film-maker who is making his own project on his own terms and some viewers may also be interested in the modern socially based dance DJ background of its director. Neither of these facts are likely to bring in a wide audience but then they aren’t meant to. Those with medium term memories may recall audience reactions to Grindhouse (2007) – no one really got it, it was too modern in application but relied on the audience’s knowledge (and perhaps even love) of old movies that many viewers just hadn’t seen and possibly had no desire to. Rubber is – in some ways – from the same school. Although its budget is significantly more in line with the films it tries to reference (early Roger Corman, pre mainstream Russ Meyer (with limited nudity), low budget schlock horror flicks from the Fifties to the Eighties) it sticks to its indie roots with a sense of fan-based cinema knowledge. Its characters refer to cinema from the past (notably E.T, Tobe Hooper’s Excellent (sic) Chain Saw Massacre as well as Oliver Stone and Roman Polanski films) but it uses defiantly low budget techniques to release its grindhouse sensibilities. Whether this is a great new approach to cinema or an annoying way of making a cheap film with your mates probably depends on your point of view, but the combination of indie art (laid back pacing, character study) and schlock gore (lots of visceral death scenes) is an interesting combination.
The film starts with the premise – this is a ‘no reason’ film, as the police sergeant (or is he?) in the patrol car is so keen to point out. Robert is a tyre. An ordinary black rubber car tyre. Really. Except he is not at all ordinary. For absolutely ‘no reason’, he comes to life and commences his own little road trip. And then discovers that he can destroy the things he comes across. And being violent in attitude, he turns to killing anything in his path, stopping off occasionally to have a swim in a motel pool or watch a bit of telly. Observing the various scenes unfurl, just off in the distance, are a group of spectators with binoculars. What can be the outcome for the people in the know, the regular people staring through visors, and the knowledge of the killer tyres?
Rubber is a short and enjoyable independent film that takes a very different approach to the depiction of its characters. It could appeal to viewers who have a soft spot for Seventies films but also those who might find this unconventional slant novel and modern. It is knowingly cinematic and Robert really is filmed as a believable character. Also of note is the score, a combination of contemporary mixing techniques and old school Sixties and Seventies hip music, partly the result of Mr. Oizo, the DJ name of Quentin Dupieux who not only directs but also writes, photographs and edits. And probably makes the tea.
Serious viewers or those expecting a non-stop parade of action and horror need not bother with this one, but anyone wanting to see a laid back old-school indie with decently squishy and irksome in-camera non-CGI effects should give it a try. Essential viewing for weirdo indie cinema fanatics…