If only the creators of Rubber had believed in their concept as much as audiences did.
The concept of Rubber holds tremendous campy potential, after all. It follows a murderous tire with psychic powers. The film opens with a direct address to the audience about pointless films, which does imbue Rubber with an interesting self-aware vibe. Even the first few scenes of the tire wandering through the desert paint a compelling portrait of an unassuming killer. All the elements are there for this quirky horror to take off as a cult hit. Admirable though it may be, Rubber unfortunately gets lost and wanders off road in its attempt to be over-the-top.
To its credit, Rubber makes an honest attempt at being off-beat. Its declaration of being a horror film about pointlessness didn’t bother me. After all, I don’t want a heavy backstory for the evil character of the tire nor did I desire rich character development from an inorganic killer. The absurdity of the premise is its allure. Watching the tire roam the country side as he crushes plastic bottles, murders bunnies with its psychic powers and ‘drink’ water from puddles is darkly comedic and well-executed. However, the B-story of Rubber is so meta it becomes, frankly, tiresome. It starts off as a satirical take audience approval with a group of people in the desert viewing the ‘movie’ through binoculars. But soon, the nature of the ‘movie’ within the film starts taking a wacky, self-aware approach styled more as a satire.
In some aspects, the commentary from the characters on the ridiculousness of the entire movie is entertaining. I was on board for most of it, but soon the clash of a murderous tire and the critical analysis of the characters grew to a point where I wish they would’ve stayed separate. It almost seemed like the director had no faith in the main story and had to camp it up with lots of self-referencing to give it more appeal. Personally, it seems unnecessary. I was all for what the movie was advertising. After all, I knew what I was getting into when I chose to watch a film about a murderous tire. We get the ridiculousness of the idea from that poster and the opening monologue. Do we really need it rubbed in our faces throughout the whole movie?
That’s not to say the self-referential element takes all the joy out of Rubber. The kills are fantastic given that they all involve a tire making heads explode in a-la Scanners. The atmosphere is perfect in the quiet scenes where the tire is just wandering around. Even the ending takes a ludicrous turn that provides the perfect setup for a campy sequel. The primary problem is that the film doesn’t let any of this play out naturally when every few moments the movie has to tell you that it is ridiculous (we know already). As it stands, Rubber is a neat little piece of camp, but the potential was there for it to be so much more. It would’ve been nice to say that there was a competent and atmospheric horror about a killer tire, but it seems that Rubber will only be a big fish in the small bowl of campy horror.
By Mark McCoy 8/8/2011