Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.
Rubber (Netflix, Amazon) is a movie that should really be written up by Kentucky Jay. Not so much because it’s intentionally b-grade horror about a sentient, telekinetic car tire. That’s actually fairly straightforward compared to the absurd framing convention, which surely has some kind of deeper meaning I couldn’t give two fucks about.
Truth be told, Rubber is never more entertaining than the cocktail party joke its logline provides. It’s silly and bizarre but rarely is it all that interesting or even very much fun. HOWEVER, the idea of replacing a horror movie’s monster du jour with something mundane is genius. It’s a clever, insightful way to expose the ridiculous side of a genre in which a well designed creature and some zippy editing frequently excuse from glaring shortcomings. Take Jeepers Creepers for example, a movie I adore. Remove the excellently designed (and acted) Creeper monster and replace it with an inanimate object and the movie would utterly fall apart. So that’s kind of interesting to think about.
But the meta framing convention — a group of random strangers sitting around in a desert watching the film’s action through binoculars — I don’t know, it’s just too weird and grating to care about. Maybe the idea is that genre filmmakers have no regard for their audiences? That would explain why the sheriff character is constantly trying to murder the viewers so he can stop “pretending” to chase his vulcanized quarry. So sure, that works. It’s not a very nice message though, and it seems to misguidedly single out horror movies. Why not go after the studio system? Or Tyler Perry? But maybe it’s just Dadaism and it doesn’t mean a damn thing.
My money says Rubber was produced either a) as the product of a bet or b) as an effort to artificially construct cult significance at the expense of rational storytelling. Still, you should go ahead and watch it. If for no other reason than to say you did.
Added bonus: The best scene by far is the tire’s origin, when it gains consciousness for the first time. The progression through its nascent moments to the realization of its passion for killing shit is expertly conveyed and perfectly paced. If that beautifully shot scene had been its own short film, it might just have achieved the sort of cult admiration that will never attach to the drawn out, directionless feature length film.