When you think of Steven Spielberg movies, you’re probably thinking of huge summer blockbuster cultural touchstones like Jaws, E.T. and Jurassic Park. What you probably don’t think about is a 40-year-old made-for-TV movie with very little dialogue and an 18-wheeler as the main antagonist. But you’re missing out.
Duel is Spielberg’s first movie, and it could be one of my favorites. It’s also incredibly scary, so what’s better to watch on Halloween than a scary movie? I’d argue that literally the scariest piece of automotive metal to grace the big screen ever is the titular Peterbilt 281 that hunts down our protagonist, David Mann’s, trusty Plymouth Valiant.
I won’t give too much away about the movie, because you really ought to watch it if you’ve got a spare hour and a half today. But, I will say this — a Jake Brake has never, ever sounded scarier than it does in this movie.
Another thing: there’s no motive — or at least no motive that is really discernible. That makes it even creepier. Mann is just trying to traverse the Mojave Desert, and he will not be left alone by the Peterbilt and its mysterious driver. No motivation makes it all the spookier.
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Think of the famous line from Scream, “”Did we ever find out why Hannibal Lecter like to eat people? DON’T THINK SO! See, it’s a lot more scarier when there’s no motive, Sid.” That’s so much scarier than knowing why someone is doing something, isn’t it?
That reminds me… watch Scream after you watch Duel today. Now that is a Halloween double feature to die for.
You can rent Duel on a number of streaming services, but if that’s not your speed there are several full rips of the movie on YouTube. I’m not telling you to do that, but as a journalist, I feel it’s my duty to let you know that the full film is on YouTube.
That little red sedan and the big brown tractor trailer have it out in the desert, and trust me... you’ll be on the edge of your seat the whole time. Oh, and you’ll never be able to look at a rust 18-wheeler the same way ever again. They cannot be trusted, as it turns out.