While not strictly an homage to the killer car/truck movie genre, this absurdist comedy about a tyre that gets mysteriously reanimated in the Californian desert certainly owes a debt to films like Duel and The Car (one of my all-time favourites). While its been out on DVD and Blu-ray for a while now, this cult-in-the-making is one of those movies that’s worth revisiting.
In a bizarre spin on Karloff’s Frankenstein monster, the tyre (affectionately called Richard in the closing credits) learns how to drink, eat and – on discovering he has telepathic abilities – destroy anything in his wake. After graduating from tins cans to rabbits, Richard (who is being observed by a group of spectators armed with binoculars) then turns his murderous abilities on man himself.
When all but one spectator (a wheelchair-bound survivalist played by genre favourite Wings Hauser) are poisoned by The Accountant (Jack Plotnick – aka internet sensation Evie Harris), the local Sheriff (Stephen Spinella) is forced to hunt Richard down – despite the fact that everything that’s happening is actually unreal.
This movie within a movie operates within three universes. We see the movie from Richard’s perspective, from the view of the spectators witnessing his race from the law, and as a character ourselves. Confusing? Not at all.
It’s really lots of fun and I found myself totally enthralled by the way director Quentin Dupieux imbues a normally inanimate object with such depth of character (Richard is like a big kid with a new toy rather than truly evil). You’d think a tyre rolling across a dusty desert would become boring, but every shot is framed like a work of art, while the music score (by the director as Mr Oizo and French electro whiz Gaspard Augé) is probably the coolest soundtrack I’ve heard in a long time.
The tread on the strange comedy does wear a little thin towards the middle, but this is one movie that has cult written all over it, and long may it roll and roll – as the final shot bears witness. Do I hear Hollywood calling Richard for another close-up?
The extras on the Blu-ray release include a suitably surreal interview with the director (speaking backwards to a blow-up sex doll) in which he reveals his secrets in bringing Richard to life. Very funny indeed.