Out in the California desert, a rubber tire gains sentience and goes on a killing spree, starting with a scorpion and culminating in the mass murder of humans. Yes, you read it right: a car tire with psychokinesis. The film is French director Quentin Dupieux’s ‘Rubber’ (2010), and it’s one of the oddest, most surreal, and weirdly hilarious films I’ve seen in a long time.
I’m sure you have a million questions. How did the tire gain sentience? How do you know it’s actually sentient? Why does it kill? How is any of this even remotely imaginable? These questions all have answers, but not that can come from me. Somehow the film is able to flesh out, so to speak, the homicidal tire as an entirely believable character — it’s the humans in its path you end up having unanswered questions about. They are the ones who actually make no sense. And a faction of them use a poisoned roast turkey to slaughter another group, very much in the spirit of the original colonizing efforts of European settlers to the East coast of America.
If you’re familiar with the German playwright Bertolt Brecht and his theatre of alienation, many of those principles are worked into the narrative in a way I’ve been calling Brechtian Fae horror. It was very important for Brecht’s audience to be keenly aware of the fact that they were watching a spectacle, and one huge way to accomplish this was by characters breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the audience, sometimes not even as their character. And this narrative device is used throughout ‘Rubber’ to excellent effect. And Fae horror rules explain the tire’s sudden sentience.
This is truly one of the most bizarre films I’ve ever seen. And maybe my favorite part has been the side effects. Everywhere I go now I see a black tire on the road. Leaning against a pole. Lying flat on a highway median. Black tires everywhere. Are they waiting for the enchantment that woke up the antihero tire of ‘Rubber’? Maybe. And I’m oddly rooting for them.
✨Binoculars/5 stars. Highly recommend paying attention to the road.✨
PS If you’re interested in learning more about Brecht, I wrote a piece analyzing Twin Peaks’ third season through a Brechtian lens. It’s a really cool framework that not many folks utilize on screen.
🦃ThanksKilling Terrors 2023 is the newest installment of my Horrorthon365 project, eclectic and unexpected genre watchlists with accompanying microreviews to suit the changing seasons. Horrorthon365 was sparked by a gnarly hand injury and surgery gone awry, hence the flash-style reviews. Browse the entire collection here. 🍗