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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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French horror flick "Rubber" is definitely not your average movie.
French horror flick "Rubber" is definitely not your average movie.

Monday Matinee Madness: Rubber

Over the past few years it seems as if you hear more and more people saying "I cannot believe they are making that into a movie!"

I thought this when I heard that the board game Monopoly was going to be made into a feature-length film and when I heard that there was a remake of "Plan 9 From Outer Space" in production (what kind of expectations should we have for that?).

Only a few weeks ago I found out about a little French film that has recently made it to the States. "Rubber" is about a car tire that comes to life and causes things to explode with psychic brain waves. I wish I could say you read that last sentence wrong.

In a genre where the morbid, obscene and unexplainable are praised, "Rubber" has appeared to take all the ideas of the horror movie mythos and apply them to a concept that even the most squeamish of film-goers would find laughable. The gore factor is there for fans of that particular style of horror, but what really makes the movie shine is the humor. Even the filmmakers themselves are extremely self-aware of how asinine of a concept the movie is.

The film opens in the middle of an unknown dessert with a random group of people standing around looking confused. We come to find out that this is the audience within the film that is the test subjects of the "show." A police car drives up and both audiences are introduced to Lieutenant Chad. Chad plays the films semi-narrator/character/omniscient guide through the experience that is the movie.

Chad asks the questions that the normal moviegoer might sometimes take for granted:

"How come the alien in E.T was brown?"

"How come in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre we never see anyone go to the bathroom or wash their hands?"

"How come in 'The Pianist,' this guy has to hide and live like a bum even though he plays the piano so well?"

All the questions that we usually ask as we are walking out the theater are answered in "Rubber."

All great films have a "no reason" factor. That is what makes a good film great. As soon as the question is asked, Chad replies, "because life itself is filled with no reason." A movie about a killer car tire has just taught us a lesson in philosophy.

As Lt. Chad drives away, the in-film "audience" is given binoculars and looks out into the distance. The film's narrative begins as "Robert" the car tire comes to life. No one in the film refers to the tire as Robert; we only find this out when the credits roll. Robert does not talk, he does not have any distinguishing features outside of being a tire, but the filmmakers have managed to make Robert the most interesting character in the movie.

I found the most interesting aspect of "Rubber" to be its painful self-awareness. It is so self-aware that it messes with the plot of the film. Hilarious breaking of the fourth wall is what turns "Rubber" from just a radical concept horror film into an intriguing film school study of what we expect when we are sucked into the fantasy world of books, movies, theater and television.

If the concept of the film throws you off from experiencing it, don't let it. It's on streaming Netflix so it's not hard to find. Rubber is an experiment that will leave you with a better understanding of why cultures from the beginning of time have always enjoyed a good story.

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