The cat and I have been home alone for a while now. Since she is used to spending every waking hour, and especially every sleeping hour lying on my boyfriend, she is taking it pretty hard that he all of a sudden abandoned her. So, I must admit, that has limited my online activity, as well as my writing, since it is very hard to get any work done with a Velcro cat on your hands at all times. Life (the cat) and I have been watching movies instead. More specifically, the movies my boyfriend is never up for watching, like Vampires Suck, Team America, Another Gay Movie (thanks Evil Icequeen for that one,) in other words, all the stupid stuff that always make me laugh. Funny how you can be with a guy for, is it 8 years by now? and not really share the same sense of humor…
Anyway, there is one other movie, one I never tire of watching. The Duel, directed by Steven Spielberg, in 1971. I have been taking this cat-stuck opportunity to watch that one again as well. Let’s be clear, that one is not stupid and not remotely in the Vampires Suck category. My boyfriend just isn’t too impressed by it. I guess he never truly felt small next to a truck… maybe I find this movie one of the more scary movies because I have been run over a few times, I don’t know, but it always gives me the chills.
It is pretty brilliant, really. Basically, there is one actor in it and two cars, a little red one and a huge truck with the word “flammable” written on the back. You quickly learn to fear this old rusty piece of metal.
David Mann is an ordinary business man, in a rather unhappy marriage. Just the basic awkward good guy, not especially pretty, not ugly, not really interesting… Just an ordinary man, going about his own business, like so many others, every day.
While traveling across the American dessert in his little red car, he ends up behind this huge truck on the empty road. Being in a bit of a hurry since his wife is expecting him home by six he overtakes the truck.
First off, they don’t make movies like this anymore. The first five minutes of screen time are spent on well… nothing. You are not introduced to any characters, you don’t see any faces, just the open land and there is a vague voice of a radio host playing in the car. The perfect lonely, open road introduction, but imagine doing that these days. Five minutes of nothing? Oh, the boredom…
Davis Mann quickly regrets overtaking this truck though, since it turns out that the truck driver takes personal offence and this journey across the dessert becomes a nightmare.
Another brilliant thing about this movie is that you never see the truck driver. You never have a face to put on him, you never know what motivates him, nothing. Just this huge monster truck, terrorizing the poor little guy in his tiny red car.
At first, it is just a bit of banter, really. The truck overtakes David and then it slows down, forcing him to overtake it again. It then begins to chase him at a very high speed, and it works, since David’s car is so small. You are left thinking, what would it do, really? I mean come on, so it’s a big truck, but it wouldn’t run the car over, now would it? Still, the way it is driven, you wonder and you do feel rather scared for David.
Now, this is car-chasing that they should learn from in Hollywood. No explosions, no special effects, no gun fire, just two cars, one of them running for its life, the other chasing it like an oncoming train.
David takes refuge in a roadside café, where he more or less crash-parks his car. The truck drives by and you are thinking, okay, that’s it then. Over. It’s gone. He goes to the men’s room to splash some water in his face and calm down. He then returns to the common room, seeing the truck parked outside, waiting for him. Empty. Which means that this crazy driver is inside the café with him.
You never learn who it is. David never figure it out. And then, the truck leaves. David reasons with himself, growing slightly convinced that the truck driver wasn’t trying to kill him and that he was gone now. He sets off again, in his little red car. Only to find the truck waiting for him down the road.
It works. It really does. The hopelessness, the horror, the solitude… I mean what would you do if it happened to you? What do you do against a psychotic person? How do you respond to someone endangering your life? Disbelieve, shock, anger, fear? What do you do?
The truck driver steps up the harassment, when he tries to push David’s car into a train at a crossing. David is parked, waiting for the train to pass and the truck simply starts pushing his car onto the tracks. Again a brilliant scene of the little car breaking for its life while the train just seems endless…
And again, you wonder. Did it really try to kill him? Sure that is a rather serious thing to do, but come on… It can’t be happening…
David then decides to call the police and report the truck. He makes a stop at a gas station and borrows a pay phone. Yes, this was 1971, no cell phones. I must admit, as I was watching this, I found myself thinking more than once, why doesn’t he call for help? Oh, right… no cell phone… Okay, sorry David, looks like you are screwed. But he finds a pay phone. And here is where you truly realize that this is for real. The truck driver does try to kill him. It runs the pay phone over, and David only just manages to jump out of the thing before it is splintered. This is where it stops being one driver bothering another on a long boring road. There is no excusing this.
So, what do you do? The powerless feeling of being completely at the mercy of this crazy person without a face, is overwhelming.
The movie is simple, thrilling, and brilliantly shot and edited. The truck has a lot of fantastic scenes where it almost feels alive, just from the way the camera is treating it. No special effects, it just works in the most horrifying way, simply because it feels real. You don’t feel like you are watching a Hollywood movie, where the hero survives and everything turns out perfect in the end. You feel like you are rooting for the little guy, about to get eaten by a monster truck. This could happen, if you were unlucky enough, to cross the wrong person. How does it end?
How do you escape it?
Well, go watch it. Now.
And I mean, really watch it. No texting, and only paying half attention. No face book. Watch it, like it was meant to be watched. Truly, they don’t make movies like this anymore. Our generation has no patience for that and it is such a shame.