I'll be honest--I was avoiding Duel for a very long time. Mostly because the idea of sitting through an hour and a half of a guy trying to escape from the clutches of a truck didn't exactly thrill me. I knew that it was the made for TV movie that got Steven Spielberg noticed, and that it was "exciting" or something of the sort, but I figured that all that "truck stalking" action wouldn't happen until a considerable amount of time had passed. Turns out--it happens right away! It reminded me of how quickly that first creepy phone call comes in Scream or how quickly that first zombie stumbles into the cemetery in Night of the Living Dead. It's nice to have the action begin so quickly, but because I knew that seeing the truck so early would mean it would be an entire hour and 30 minutes of the same kind of thing, I began to get very worried.
As it turns out, Duel is pretty exciting and possibly even a bit nerve racking. Road rage is never a good thing-and I'm sure we've all been the target or possibly the perpetrator in our days of driving. I am willing to bet however that no one was ever stalked relentlessly by a scary truck with questionable motives. Perhaps one of the more frightening things about Duel is figuring out what could have possibly set off that truck driver in the first place. Was it because David Mann passed him? Or because David Mann's red car set off the driver like a matador's red cape sets off a bull (Yes I know a bull is actually colorblind just go with the metaphor mmmk?) Or maybe it was because David Mann's face just kind of annoyed him. The fact that there is no clear cut reason and that we never get to see the truck driver is both frustrating and chilling.
With every scene that David Mann looks in his rear view and sees the truck approaching behind him, we get more and more nervous. The beauty of it all is- Spielberg-almost in the way that he portrayed fear with just a dorsal fin and/or music, is able to create fear just with that single shot of the rear view mirror.
Plus even though the movie does consist mostly of David Mann in his car and the truck driver in his car- the film still manages to keep your attention. However these scenes that continue to keep our attention raised usually have to do with when David is out of his car. The scene where he is trying to help the school bus full of the biggest rapscallions this world has ever seen,
and of course the rattlesnake farm scene were two of my favorites. They both truly showed the massive extent to which this truck driver's balls could swell--imagine almost mauling a man down in a phone booth for no real reason at all?
Then we have the diner scene. Even though we are never told or shown who the truck driver is--we all have our assumptions. But honestly, how much more frustrating can you make things? David's inner monologue is panicky, anxious, and paranoid--everything you would expect from someone who almost lost their life for no good reason. So many questions arise in us as we try to place ourselves in the same situation, but it soon becomes quite clear that we could do no better. Plus how completely awesome is that last scene? Not as awesome as David Mann's victory leap, that's for sure.
Overall, Duel is a pretty solid film. Sure it gets a little tiring and annoying being trapped in a car with David Mann, whose facial and verbal expressions are almost as hilarious as that little old lady and her wacky snake farm. But in all honesty it was pretty darn good. Maybe not as a feel good horror movie- but of an I'm in the mood for some crazy truck driver shenanigans movie.