What to say about a horror movie starring a tire? Unsurprisingly, Quentin Dupieux's Rubber was one of the most unique films showcased at this year's Portland International Film Festival, even among those relegated to the late-night PIFF After Dark screenings. Despite a completely packed house at the Hollywood Theatre, it was a good call to schedule the film as a part of the newly minted after hours series, especially since it might not have had the same draw without the blessing of local Grindhouse Film Festival overlord Dan Halsted (who programmed all the PIFF After Dark features).
As for the movie itself, it upended all my expectations of just being a slightly more wacky take on the tried and true splattercore genre. Instead of riding that old pony to town, Rubber takes a decidedly more conceptual route, fixing its sights on nothing less than a playful examination of the act of observation. The killer tire of the title ends up being really no more than a sideshow act to the ideas explored by Dupieux and his cast, which pits an in-film audience (watching the movie via binoculars) against the participants of the main narrative. Those players acting out the narrative--tracking down the tire as it rolls from one corpse to its next victim--desperately want to rid themselves of the audience, 'cause without those eyes watching them they can just relax and go home.
Yes, it is super-meta material for a genre film. And by the end of the movie, the concept has been stretched a little thin. Still, Rubber rises above the standard horror fare through its dogged resistance to categorization and the reliance upon ideas rather than just cheap thrills. Plus, it's wicked fun to see with an audience.
Hopefully, it'll make its way back to a screen in PDX soon, especially since I get the feeling that it just might connect with the same adventurous audiences that came out for last year's week long run of Hausu at Cinema 21.
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