2012 Film Challenge #61 - Rubber

There was a point in 2011 when I found myself quite excited by a trio of forthcoming horror films. Each looked wonderful, and each promised a brave new vista of terror which would, I thought, transcend the dreary drudgery of torture porn and slasher remakes that seem to form the backbone of modern horror.

Monsters, the giant jellyfish caper with homemade SFX, was every bit as serene, graceful and stirring as it promised.

Troll Hunter I've not seen yet.

Rubber was a film about a killer tyre. How could that possibly be anything less than marvellous?

I bought it last Christmas and only got around to watching it last weekend.

Oh, I should have listened to the warnings.

Except, they weren't warnings at all. They were reservations.

It's a gimmick, I was told. It'll be about as marvellous as those people who describe themselves as “mad” and “bubbly”.

It will only revel in its quirkiness and, as such, be a waste of everyone's time.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

It's a film about a killer tyre called Robert who has the ability to make people's heads explode!

How could that possibly be anything less than marvellous?

For just the very reasons expressed in those reservations.

Spend a lot of time watching films and you acquire such tremendous powers of prophecy that are to be ignored at your peril, sir.

Rubber opens by breaking the fourth wall. As anybody who's seen Holy Mountain through to the end will attest, this device can have remarkably life-affirming effects.

Rubber, though, deploys the device to not only draw attention towards how stupid is the film you're about to watch, but also towards just how stupid are those who made it.

We are given a list of the great “no-reasons” in film history. You know what a “no-reason” is. It's something that's in a film just because it is. Why should everything have to be explained?

But if you're going to open your film with such meta ideas, at the very least you'd want to put some thought into what you're about to say, wouldn't you?

For the examples of “no-reasons” we're given are not “no-reasons” in the slightest.

First of all, we're asked to consider why E.T.'s brown.

Why is that even a thing?

Then we're invited to ponder upon why, in Oliver Stone's JFK, “why is the President suddenly assassinated by some stranger?”

Because he was. Quite possibly by some shady underground group who had vested interests in the US remaining in Vietnam.

The stupidest “no-reason”, though, relates to The Pianist: “How come this guy has to hide and live like a bum when he plays the piano so well?”

Because he's Jewish and on the run from the Nazis.

Jesus Christ.

I can't think of any “no-reasons” from the top of my head, but I know that I'd be able to list two or three good ones were I to set aside as little as twenty minutes to do so.

Perhaps the whole idea is that these “no-reasons” have reasons. Perhaps this feeble and ridiculous opening gambit is designed to invite us to think on a certain level; to question everything through questioning nothing.

In reality, though, it's a clumsy, faltering vomit of an opening that inspired nothing but instant revulsion.

And it gets worse. Much, much worse.

All the action in the film is watched through binoculars by a group of film buffs on a hill. Throughout the film, they comment on proceedings in such terms as would be spoken by nobody who ever has or will draw breath.

At one point, they even comment upon how boring they're finding the whole thing.

Congratulations. Now I'm wondering why this 80 minute film seems to be taking longer to watch than Ben-Hur.

It's a terrible shame that Rubber's so preoccupied with how clever it is. The scenes of Robert the tyre finding his feet (so to speak) are strangely beautiful, like Bambi on the ice.

Similarly, the whole thing's shot in an exhausted, washed-out bleached bleakness which makes you feel the heat, the dust and yearn for a cold drink or shower.

Had they just focused upon telling the remarkable story of a sentient tyre with the ability to make heads explode for no reason, they'd likely have struck off-beat cinematic gold.

But no. At one point they must have realised just how clever they are, the results being the cinematic equivalent of an inebriated party guest who's outstayed his welcome and is wearing a lampshade on his head.

Or perhaps more likely, they realised that a film about a tyre has no legs. They had to pad out a wafer-thin story through drawing attention to just how wafer-thin it is.

In any case, it's a sad, unfortunate failure.

Saddest of all, though, is that this car-crash of a film is still infinitely preferable to the scores of tired old torture porn and slasher remakes out there.

Oh no, I'm so disappointed I'm getting predictable.

You knew I was going to close with such remarks, didn't you?


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