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Killer Car Movies: “Rubber” (2010)

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“Tired” of normal horror movies? Be sure to “tread” carefully! I’m on a “roll”…
Photo: Pixabay via CC

Watching horror movies is a traditional pastime during the Halloween season. TV screens are populated by such creepy entities as ghosts, zombies, and vampires. But it may shock you to find out that there exists an entire genre of “carsploitation” cinema that pits vile vehicles of all shapes and sizes against mankind. The News Wheel is celebrating the spookiest time of year by highlighting the weird and wonderful world of killer car movies. Today’ subject is a film that distills the concept of a “killer car” down to a single, seemingly simple component: a tire. Welcome to Rubber (2010).

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The weird world of “Rubber”

Before any kind of discussion about Rubber can begin, I feel it wise to provide you with a brief disclaimer/warning/explanation. This movie, for lack of a better way to put it, is weird. Imagine the weirdest thing you can think of, and then try to imagine it as being even weirder. Once you’ve done that, add in a sentient tire with psychokinetic, head-exploding powers. You still with me? If so, read on.

Rubber is less of a film, and more of a storytelling experiment. Its reputation as “that movie where a tire comes to life and kills people” really doesn’t tell the whole tale. Conceived in France by writer/director Quentin Dupieux, this is a movie that takes self-awareness to a surreal level. The film knows it’s ridiculous, but the way it communicates that to the audience is wholly unique and bizarre.

Rubber tells the story of an average, everyday car tire that suddenly comes to life. Calling itself Robert, the tire soon discovers that it has psychic abilities. From there, things only get stranger. After taking a liking to a woman he sees on the road, Robert the rubber tire begins murdering people to get to her. Heads explode, bodies are crushed, and somewhere in the middle of it all, Robert finds time to shower in a motel.


Why it’s scary

While the above plot synopsis might make this movie sound like an unusual but otherwise straightforward slasher flick, I assure you that this isn’t the case. What I didn’t mention is that the movie is framed as just that: a movie. The beginning of the film sees the character of Lieutenant Chad explain what we’re about to see to two audiences: us, and a second audience watching the movie within the movie. It’s hard to explain, but the experimental nature of the film’s framing is at once fascinating and disturbing.

The opening monologue from Chad puts the film’s entire hand of cards on the table. As he explains, “all great films, without exception, contain an important element of no reason. And you know why? Because life itself is filled with no reason.” The idea of “no reason” is the beating heart behind the film, and why it’s effectively scary. Having no reason or cause for the story’s events might’ve been a great excuse for its weirdness, but there’s more to it than that. As humans, we seek to understand the reasons behind why things happen. When we are deprived of that explanation, fear replaces common sense. In the end, this film is asking you to abandon any hope of getting answers, and to be scared of a sentient car tire. Whether the experiment works on your or not, its implementation in this film is kind of brilliant.

Oh, and there’s also a tire that blows people’s heads up Scanners-style. That’s also pretty scary, I guess.

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Rubber might not be for the faint of heart, but if you’re in the mood for an extra helping of insane this Halloween season, give it a shot.