Movie Review
Rubber Johnny


Director: Chris Cunningham
Cast: Chris Cunningham, Elvis the Dog

ince his first appearance on Chris Cunningham’s shockingly brief Directors Label DVD release, it’s been a long wait for Rubber Johnny to become fully unsheathed. Cunningham’s music promo work has commanded a near obsessive amount of interest since “Come to Daddy” became the oddest thing anyone had ever seen on MTV after the sun went down.

This, his fifth collaboration with Richard ‘Aphex Twin’ James, is essentially an aborted promo video for Drukqs track “Afx 237v.7” and is absolutely beyond doubt his most peculiar piece of work to date. There are those who will say that once again Cunningham has once again chosen the “freak ‘em out” path over actual content with Rubber Johnny. His central character is a wheelchair bound child in a man’s body with the head of a foetus.

As with his collaborations on “Windowlicker” and Squarepusher’s “Come on my Selector” the visuals are so tightly bound to the music through his super fast, super sharp cuts that listening back to “Afx 237v.7” it sounds like those images have always played alongside the sound.

Francis Bacon’s got nothing on this.

With a worryingly bizarre and sinister opening that rivals the closing of The Blair Witch Project, the pre-credits freak-out shows an aborted interview with Johnny, giving us our first view of something both horrendously ugly and comical. The whole short is shot in the night vision green and black that’s normally reserved for stalkers and war footage, but Rubber Johnnys success lies in its insane imagery and a total kinetic energy overload as Johnny shapeshifts through several bizarre body breaking wheelchair stunts.

Dancing in his chair in something similar to Old Skool Rave ‘hands in the air’ style he deflects laser beams with his open palms and even making time to snort the biggest line of coke seen since Scarface. The elasticity of the manipulated figures spasming sometimes ends in a soggy pile-up of mashed up prosthetics splodged against our screens before reforming again. So: is Johnny a mutant shape shifter or a damaged child locked in the basement imagining a maddeningly speedy world of hyper-movement? On the several occasions when an adult enters the room (shifting everything quickly into a black room in the glare of a bulb) the action freezes and Johnny is referred to as a “twat” amongst other mumbled drunken abuses. The mind boggles at what Cunningham has imagined with regards to Johnny’s day to day life beyond what’s shown in the short.

For now, those with the right frame of mind can enjoy these six minutes with an exceptionally entertaining odd short film starring an abused misshape. Now, if only Cunningham can take it one step further and give us an hour and a half of warped material.

By: Scott McKeating
Comments (0)
  all content copyright 2001-2005