Horror Bulletin
Horror Bulletin
Duel, Rubber, and All the Mad Max Films
0:00
-1:14:03

Duel, Rubber, and All the Mad Max Films

Weekly Horror Bulletin Issue #287

It’s Road Kill Week here with the Horror Guys. The rubber hits the road with “Mad Max” from 1979, “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior” from 1981, and “Max Max: Beyond Thunderdome” from 1985. We wait about thirty years for the next installment, “Mad Max: Fury Road” from 2015. Then we’ll go back and see the movie that influenced the whole thing, “Duel” from 1971. Just for laughs, we’ll also take a look at “Rubber” from 2010.   

Check out all our books with one easy link: https://brianschell.com/collection/horrorguys


Mad Max (1979)

  • Directed by George Miller

  • Written by James McCausland, George Miller, Byron Kennedy

  • Stars Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Steve Bisley

  • Run Time: 1 Hour, 28 Minutes

  • Trailer:

Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone

This was a heavily action thriller movie, but it’s grim enough to be horror adjacent. It’s set somewhat in the future from the 70s, or in a vaguely alternate timeline, without really being futuristic or seeming too science fiction. We thought it holds up pretty well, and it’s one that you should check out as where the ongoing Mad Max movies began.

Spoilery Synopsis

After the most 70s credit ever, we are told it’s “a few years from now…” 

A couple of young cops get a call about a cop killer on the highway. Before they go, they argue over who gets to drive. They’re chasing “terminal psychotics,” and we see the police leader, Max, getting into his car. They pick up more cops and some tow trucks as the chase continues. 

We cut to a couple arguing, an RV driver who can’t drive, and a baby walking in the road. This goes badly for all involved, except the maniac, who calls himself The Night Rider, gets away with his girl sidekick. Charlie, one of the cops, gets hurt pretty badly. Max finally starts his car and awaits the Night Rider, who says on the radio that he works for Toecutter. 

Night Rider and Max play chicken on the road, and then it’s another chase. Night Rider’s car explodes in a big fireball. 

That night, back at home, Max watches his wife, Jessie, play the saxophone. They have a really nice house out on the Australian coast. Max goes to work, and we see the police aren’t what they used to be, but they do have some really souped-up cars. 

Max hears from the captain that the Night Rider’s friends are out to get him now, but Max doesn’t seem concerned. 

A whole bunch of bikers come to town, led by Toecutter. They’ve come to pick up Night Rider’s body. The gang is rowdy in town, picking on the locals. They chase one guy and his girlfriend’s car, and they soon run him off the road. They destroy the guy’s fancy car and terrorize the couple inside. 

Max and Goose get a call about the bikers, and they respond. They find the girl in shock, and Johnny the Boy, one of the bikers, high out of his mind. Toecutter sends one of his guys to get him out. No one in town presses charges, and they have to release Johnny. This enrages Goose, who takes it all very personally. Later, Toecutter shows Johnny how much he is displeased. 

Later, while the cops are all at a dance club, someone sabotages Goose’s motorcycle. In the morning, Goose rides off and Johnny smiles from a distance. Naturally, his bike waits until he’s going at a very high speed before it all falls apart. He’s not hurt, but the bikers ambush him in his borrowed truck on the way back. With Goose trapped upside down and gas leaking, Toecutter goads Johnny into setting him on fire, and they watch him burn. 

Max rushes to the hospital, where all the other cops are waiting. Goose is badly burned and on a ventilator. What Max sees is bad enough to give him nightmares that night. The next morning, Max tries to resign, but the captain, Fifi, offers him a few weeks off instead. 

We get a montage of Max and Jessie enjoying their time off together. They go on a picnic, get a flat tire, and take it to the mechanic to get the tire fixed. Jessie and the baby go to town for some ice cream and run into the bikers. Jessie knees Toecutter in the groin and drives off with the whole gang in pursuit, but they do get away. We do see that the bikers aren’t very far behind. 

Later, Jessie goes to the beach, and the bikers chase her through the woods.  She gets away, but the baby suddenly goes missing. She’s confronted by the gang, steals the baby, and runs away down the road, where she’s run down by the gang. The baby is killed, and Jessie is severely injured just before Max catches up. 

Max freaks out and goes to get the souped-up police “Pursuit Special.” He starts tracking down the Toecutter gang. He finds a group of them and runs several off the road. The survivors call Toecutter to join them. Max gets shot in the knee, and his arm gets run over. That just makes him mad. He shotguns Toecutter’s last remaining gang member. 

Max gets back in the car and chases Toecutter into running head-first into a semi-truck. Later, he finds Johnny at the site of another accident that he probably caused. Max cuffs Johnny’s ankle to the wreckage, sets up a lighter next to a leaking pool of gasoline, and gives him a saw. He tells Johnny he can't saw through the cuff in time, but he could cut his foot off to get free. Max drives away, and there’s an explosion behind him; Goose has been avenged. 

Commentary

Mel Gibson was only 21 here and was paid $10,000 since he was an unknown actor. On release, American audiences had a lot of trouble understanding the dialogue, so it was all dubbed for non-Aussie theaters. The Aussie dialogue has since been restored. 

When Max gave Johnny the saw and the choice to either cut off his own foot or burn to death, we were reminded of “Saw,” which had to have been at least slightly influenced by the scene. 

This is very different from what the franchise later became. There were some crazy bikers in the desert and very offbeat cops, but it wasn’t really anything close to a post-apocalyptic wasteland. There were a few “prohibited area” road signs. At worst, it was an under-funded police force trying to keep order in the outback. 

Still, Jessie spends a good portion of the film being chased and terrorized by the biker gang, and a lot of people die. It’s probably more action-adventure than either horror or sci-fi, but it’s the first entry in the series, so we’ll get there. 

It’s a little slow in the middle, but it doesn’t drag, and it still entertains, just without the insanity of the later films.

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) 

  • Directed by George Miller

  • Written by Terry Hayes, George Miller, Brian Hannant

  • Stars Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Michael Preston, Max Phipps

  • Run Time: 1 Hour, 36 Minutes

  • Trailer:

Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone

Years after “Max Max,” things have gotten apocalyptic. This is the tale of loner Max who becomes a reluctant hero helping out some folks in need. The effects budget was clearly higher this time around, with over the top vehicle action, fights, and explosions. It’s still horror adjacent, but it’s got a high body count with people meeting horrible ends. We would recommend it.

Spoilery Synopsis

We get a voiceover about a time of chaos and ruined dreams. We see that there were wars that ended up causing the fall of civilization. “Only those mobile enough to scavenge, brutal enough to pillage, were able to survive.” We hear about the warrior Max, and we see some flashbacks to the first film. He wandered out into the wasteland to learn to live again…

Max and his dog drive down the road, pursued by some baddies; he’s nearly out of gas. He makes them all crash, but he gets out to steal their gas. Later, he drives “home” to find someone with a tiny helicopter that has landed there. The pilot gets the drop on Max and demands his gasoline. With the help of his dog, Max turns the tables on the man, who tries to buy his safety by telling Max where a gasoline refinery is. 

They go to the site. A road gang led by Humungus has the place mostly under siege, but the villagers inside are holding them off. There are lots of people and vehicles down there, and they’re not very friendly-looking. In the morning, Max watches as some of the refinery people try to go out, and some of the Humungus gang run them off the road and do bad things to them. On the bright side, they do leave the whole refinery mostly unmolested. 

Max takes his car down the hill. Nathan, the man who survived the biker attack, is Max’s ticket into the refinery. The gang returns, and Max helps the refinery people hold off the baddies. Humungus turns on the P.A. and warns them about not cooperating with him. A feral kid throws a boomerang at one of the main baddies, Wez, but kills his boyfriend instead. Wez gets angry and wants to kill everyone, but Humungus calms him down. Humungus gives the refinery villagers one day to surrender. 

The villagers all argue about whether to abandon the refinery or not. Max knows where they can find a truck big enough to haul their gas tanker away, and he makes a deal with Pappagallo, the leader of the group. They give Max fuel for the abandoned semi that he passed yesterday, and he starts walking. First, he sneaks past the Humungus camp with the help of the feral kid. 

Meanwhile, the helicopter pilot has been dragging the log that Max chained him to for miles and miles. The pilot then flies him to the truck, where they work together to get it running. He leaves the pilot behind and drives the truck back to the refinery. 

Driving past the Humungus camp, Max stirs up all kinds of trouble, but Humungus shoots him in the radiator. The pilot flies over and drops rattlesnakes on the baddies, which they do not enjoy. 

Max, Wez, and a few of the bad guys get through the gate into town. There’s a fight, and people die on both sides. Finally, they get things under control again. It’ll take twelve hours to repair the damage done to the truck. Max is a hero to the people now, but he says he’s leaving. 

Humungus isn’t gone. We get a “What’s in your wallet” montage as they roar and stomp and pose ferociously all night. The pilot tries to convince a blonde woman to fly away with him, but she refuses to abandon her people, giving him something to think about. 

Pappagallo tries to convince Max to stay and help, and he offers him a home with them if they can get 2,000 miles away. Even the pilot tries to talk Max into staying. Max and the feral kid have bonded, and he feels bad about leaving, but he does. 

Out in the wilderness, Wez hears Max driving by, and his guys start the chase. Everyone nitro-turbos their engines, and things get crazy. Max’s car goes off the road, and that’s not gonna be a quick fix. The bad guys shoot Max’s dog, but the engine booby-trap kills several of the raiders. Wez assumes Max died in the explosion and leaves. 

Max crawls out of the wreckage and passes out just as the pilot lands next to him. He saw the smoke from the explosion and flew over to save Max. Back at the refinery, Max wakes up and volunteers to drive the truck. The villagers have been preparing for this, putting spikes and weapons on their own vehicles. 

Max drives the tanker, equipped with a cow-catcher, right through the enemy lines, making room for the others to follow. Most of the villagers evacuate in a different direction, and the baddies chase after the tanker and some escort vehicles. The refinery is left to the baddies, and a few go in, but they find it to be booby-trapped. The entire base explodes excessively!

Now it’s time for the crazy chase. All the baddies, in their modified bandit-mobiles, chase Max’s truck. Max runs a few enemies off the road, but he loses the helpers he brought with him, one by one. Wez jumps on board and really hurts Max, but the feral kid gets involved and gives Max the break he needs. 

Humungus throws a spear that kills Pappagallo, and the pilot continues dropping fire bombs until he’s shot down. Wez jumps back onto the hood of the truck, and they run head-first into Humungus, killing the bad guys’ leaders. The truck rolls over, and the remaining raiders turn around and leave. 

Max and the feral kid crawl out of the wreckage. Max sees that the truck is full of sand; it was just a decoy, so most of the people could get away. The pilot drives up in what’s left of his plane, and the three of them join the rest of the caravan at an arranged meeting place. The villagers had hidden all the fuel in barrels inside the school bus and smaller vehicles. 

We see that our narrator is the feral child, all grown up, telling about how they got away and the pilot became their new leader. He still remembers Max, the road warrior, who left them. 

Commentary

This takes place five years after the previous film, and this time, we’re definitely post-apocalypse. They never explain what any of these people do for food. Maybe they have a well for water, but there are no farms anywhere. Gasoline isn’t the only thing that matters– dressing like a bondage leather daddy seems to be a big part of the experience as well. 

The leader of the baddies is Humungus, but Wez is much more of a real threat here. All the villains here look cool, but they’re no Toecutter-level cool from the first movie. The car chases, and the cars themselves are all several levels beyond the previous film, already getting into the suspension-of-disbelief realm, but they’re fun. 

Again, the situation these people are all in is very bleak, but it’s only marginally horror. There is some good gore and creative deaths. It’s essentially a bunch of people in the desert under siege by an army of baddies with only one man to save them.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) 

  • Directed by George Miller, George Ogilvie 

  • Written by Terry Hayes, George Miller, Byron Kennedy

  • Stars Mel Gibson, Tina Turner, Bruce Spence

  • Run Time: 1 Hour, 47 Minutes

  • Trailer:

Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone

Civilization is thriving in the post-apocalyptic world, and everyone is getting along. Well, not quite, but there is a little town run by Tina Turner, who is fun in this one. The whole thing is over the top, with Max again being a reluctant hero in a world gone strange. It’s not critical to see the first two movies first, but you’ll get more out of this one if you do. We thought it was the best of the three.

Spoilery Synopsis

An airplane containing a pilot (who looks like the pilot from the previous film but isn’t the same character), along with his son, dive-bomb a guy with a truck being pulled by camels. The man driving the truck is thrown out, and we soon see that it’s Max who chases after his truck as the boy drives it away. 

On foot now, Max walks through the desert toward Bartertown, a steampunk place where everyone dresses like the crazies from “The Road Warrior.” He talks to The Collector, who offers him a job to get his stuff back. They walk through town, and we see that it’s… quite a place. The Collector takes Max to see the town’s leader, Auntie Entity. 

Auntie Entity explains that she built this town, there’s power and law and order. It’s rough, but it’s a taste of civilization. Max’s job is to kill a man. She wants him to get rid of a former friend of hers without anyone knowing he works for her. She shows him their methane factory, which generates electricity fueled by pigs. There’s a stupid giant, Blaster, and a smart dwarf, Master, who are always together– and very powerful. Master knows the science behind keeping the power on, and he thinks he should be in charge. Auntie disagrees. She wants Master alive and Blaster dead. 

Max goes down to “Underland” and starts working for Master-Blaster, and we see why he’s so powerful - he controls the energy, or the lack of it, for the town. Max also learns Blaster’s weakness– high-pitched noises. Max agrees to take on the job, which is really combat to the death inside Thunderdome, a big arena. 

That night, there’s a big party, and Max starts a fight with Blaster. The law says no fighting is allowed; disputes must be handled in Thunderdome. Next thing we know, the host, Dr. Dealgood, tells them all about the hard rain and how the law has come to Bartertown. “Two men enter, one man leaves,” everyone chants. There are no rules in Thunderdome, and the fight is to the death. 

The two men start fighting while on elastic cords, and it’s clear that Blaster overpowers “The man with no name” easily. It takes a while for Max to get the hang of the ropes, but he soon does. It gets very acrobatic as they jump and fly around the arena. Max eventually uses the whistle, which makes Blaster writhe in pain. Max knocks Blaster’s helmet off, and we all see who’s inside: a big, simple-minded lug. Master runs inside to beg for leniency on the big, childlike man. Master learns that Auntie and Max had a deal, but when one of the goons finishes off Blaster, Master has no power behind his threats. 

Auntie gets angry because Max wouldn’t kill Blaster and for spilling the beans about their arrangement. But right or wrong, they had a deal, and the law says, “Bust a deal and face the wheel,” which decides his punishment. He spins the wheel and gets… “Gulag.” They tie Max up, put him on a horse, and abandon him in the desert to die. 

When the power goes off that night, the men and Aunty torment Master until he agrees to fix the problem. Eventually, the horse under Max dies, and he’s brought water by a pet monkey. He heads back to Bartertown on foot again but passes out in the desert. Someone finds him that night and drags him away. 

“It’s Captain Walker,” says the oldest girl to the other children. There is a whole group of children living alone in caves in the desert. Max has been unconscious for a long time, and the children take care of him. The children have waited for years for Captain Walker to return; they’ve developed a whole religion about the crashed airplane and the captain who brought them there after the “apoxyclips.” Apparently, the Captain left them to go get help and never came back. 

Max tells the group that he’s not Captain Walker. He tells them that the cities are gone forever and that this place is their home now. Suddenly, the wind picks up, and everyone runs off into the desert. They lead Max to the wreckage of their plane, and they expect him to make it go. 

The children, led by Savannah and Slake, argue about trying to walk to Bartertown, and Max warns them not to try. Max stops them, but the next morning, they find that some of the group has gone anyway. Max and two of the kids follow after. They catch up to the first group just as they’re about to be swallowed up by a sinkhole. 

Their only chance is to continue to Bartertown. They sneak into Undertown to find the Master imprisoned with the pigs. There’s an almost comic-booky battle as the children and Max take over the Undertown. Things are looking bleak, but there’s a train-truck thing they can use to escape. Auntie Entity sees what’s going on and is not amused. 

As the methane ignites, everything in town starts to explode, causing people to evacuate the town. Auntie and her warriors take off after Max, Master, and the kids with their dune buggy army. It’s time for the inevitable crazy vehicle chase. Auntie’s men soon learn you don’t fight the crazy train with a dune buggy. Many vehicular hijinks ensue. 

The train comes to the end of the line, where they run into the pilot and his son from earlier. Max takes a truck, and everyone else gets into the tiny airplane. He needs to clear the way for them to take off, so he drives straight for Auntie Entity’s caravan. 

Everyone gets away except for Max, who is captured. Auntie laughs it off and leaves him there alone. 

The pilot flies over the ruined cities, and everyone aboard gets a good look at what’s left. Time passes, and the group has set up a new colony in the old city with a little bit of the power on; they still tell the story of Max, who they hope to see again. 

Commentary

This is set fifteen years after the second film and twenty after the first one. Society has completely devolved since the previous film, and this one pretty much defined what post-apocalyptic “civilization” would look like on film for decades after its release. Bartertown, and everything that goes with it, are iconic for the genre, and it’s all really well done. The story itself is all very over-the-top and ridiculous, but that’s the best thing about the film. 

It’s fairly long, but it really doesn’t drag at any point. The car chase is pretty crazy, but that’s actually only a small part of the story. 

Of the original three, I like this one the most.

Short Film: Deserters (2021) 

  • Directed by Aaron Throgmorton

  • Written by Duke Appleton, Aaron Throgmorton

  • Stars Duke Appleton, Adlih Torres, Thato Mothobi

  • Run Time: 19:13

  • Watch it:

What Happens

A group of five people run through the post-apocalyptic wasteland, leaving one of their group behind as credits roll. 

They come to an abandoned waterpark to regroup. Haven should be just a few miles away. If they push, they could get there by evening, but their leader wants everyone to rest first. They believe “That thing” is still several days behind them. 

One girl has been cut with something poison that’s gotten infected. Another of their group wants to leave her behind and move on; she insults the overweight guy, who hasn’t done anything wrong. The leader and the overweight kid talk about times before the cataclysm. We see that someone else is watching them from afar…

That night, the stranger comes to their camp, and it’s bad all-around. 

Commentary

The music is good and appropriate, but a little overloud over some of the dialogue at points. The characters are all distinctive and interesting, and the acting is decent for a horror short film. The story about the wrestler’s brother was too long and dragged a bit, but was well-acted. Some of the night scenes are a little too dark. 

The fight scenes and gore are not great, but they’re a small part of the main story. The final resolution was more predictable than it should have been. I think the ending could have been clearer as to the motivation of the bad guy.

Mad Max Fury Road (2015) 

  • Directed by George Miller

  • Written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nick Lathouris

  • Stars Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult

  • Run Time: 2 Hours

  • Trailer:

Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone

This isn’t quite a sequel or a reboot of the first three films. It’s more of a parallel set in the same world of the third movie, with a different Max in a different part of Australia. It takes the elements and mood of the third movie and cranks up the volume with almost non-stop action. Charlize Theron and the baddies carry the movie about as much as Max does. We thought it was very entertaining and well-made.

Spoilery Synopsis

We hear about the “Oil Wars” as credits roll. Max narrates his earlier life, and then the nuclear war, and then the world fell. We zoom in on Max, who kills and eats a gecko. He gets back into his car as he’s pursued by a gang of bandits. They overturn his car spectacularly and drag him to their lair, where they cut off his hair, tattoo him, and start to brand him. He almost escapes, but we see that he’s haunted by his past. Credits roll. 

We cut to Furiosa getting into her monster truck as the leader of the town, Immortan Joe, puts on his elaborate outfit and monster face. There’s also a little Darth Vader element to what he’s wearing that is helping him breathe. Joe sends his war rig to bring back bullets from Bulletown and gas from the Gastown factory, with a tanker of water in trade. He runs the cult of the War Boys, a bunch of bald young men. There are a lot of people in this desert oasis, but Joe controls all the water; he distributes the water to the people in the most inefficient way possible. He has quite a setup going with slaves, machines, and his followers. 

Down in Joe’s dungeon, we see Max in a cage. On the road, Furiosa turns the truck away from Gastown; she wants to go East. Joe’s weird sons see that she’s off-course, and Joe runs to his vault, which is empty. His many wives have vanished– Furiosa has stolen his wives!

Immortan Joe alerts his War Boys, who get their muscle cars ready for battle. Some of the War Boys fight amongst themselves. They’ve even got a truck with a chained-on guitar player and drummers. Nux, one of the War Boys, has Max tied to the front of his car like a hood ornament as his blood source. The soldiers with Furiosa see flares and know they are being pursued. 

The porcupine sand people see the War Rig and move in to ambush them. The well-armed War Boys mess up the porcupine people without much effort. Nux’s car catches up to them, and it looks rough for Max, especially with all those spikes on the bandits’ cars. 

The bandits are all defeated, but before Nux, Joe, and the War Boys can grab Furiosa, she turns the War Rig into a huuuuuuge sandstorm. Nux follows her in, with Max clinging to the back of his car. The sandstorm is full of lightning and tornadoes, very excessive! 

Nux plans to blow up himself and his car to stop the War Rig, but Max breaks in to stop him. This goes badly for them both, as the car crashes. 

Max wakes up in the morning after the storm has passed. He finds himself still chained to Nux, who also isn’t dead. He carries Nux to Furiosa’s War Rig, which stalled out not too far away. He runs into the brides, one of whom is pregnant. He orders the girls to cut his chain off, but they attack him instead. Max gets the upper hand just as Immortan Joe’s people appear on the horizon.  

Max takes the War Rig, leaving all the women behind; it stalls out immediately; Furiosa has installed kill switches. She negotiates with him, and they all drive away with Nux hanging from the rear. They are off to “The Green Place.” 

Joe’s group and the men from Gastown are about to intercept the War Rig. The Bullet Farmer is coming from the opposite direction.

They drive through a narrow pass in the cliffs and then stop. The people Furiosa made a deal with double-cross her, but they set off an avalanche that will slow down their pursuers. The bandits get into another running battle. 

Joe catches up, and Nux is eager to help him. During one of the battles, the pregnant wife is killed; Joe stops for her. Nux, who failed miserably, knows that Joe will kill him next. The War Rig breaks down at night, so Max and Furiosa set traps and landmines as Joe’s people approach. 

The People-Eater, from Gastown, complains about the cost of this chase to Immortan Joe, who has paused to cut the baby from his dead wife’s corpse. The baby is dead too, which enrages Joe. Nux, who knows what Joe will do, volunteers to help the good guys escape. 

Max and Nux get the War Rig running again. Furiosa explains that she was born in the Green Place and was stolen as a child. She wants to get back there and help Immortan Joe’s brides escape their life of captivity. They arrive there, but the Green Place isn’t green anymore. Some of the people there know who Furiosa is, and her story checks out. On the other hand, there’s no green place, and there are only a few of Furiosa’s people left alive. One old woman has a bagful of seeds she’s saving. 

Furiosa wants to abandon the rig and cross the salt to whatever’s on the other side. She invites Max to come with them, but he declines. He wants them all to go back to the citadel and take over there. They might be able to sneak in while Joe and his men are out looking for them. 

Joe and his group, still out there, see the War Rig heading back the way they came, and turn to pursue. This leads, surprisingly, to another battle. Most everyone gets injured pretty badly, and there’s some crazy explosions. 

Joe’s largest son, Rictus, grabs some of the women off the truck, but eventually gets into a fight with Max. Furiosa catches up with Joe himself. She literally rips his face off along with his breathing mask. All the women climb off the rig onto Joe’s car. Nux, still in the War Rig, crashes the War Rig into the narrow pass, blocking the rest of the baddies from getting through. 

Furiosa’s dying, and Max works hard to save her, even giving her a transfusion of his own blood. 

They arrive at the citadel, and Max shows them Joe’s body. The crowd cheers. We see that Furiosa is back too, and she looks– alive, at least. They go up to the tower and release enough water for everyone. Max slips away in the crowd… 

Commentary

This takes all the stuff from the third movie that was great and cranks it up to eleven. It’s bright and colorful, which is odd, considering the setting, but it all works. It’s one high-speed thing after another, and the majority of the runtime is one long, high-intensity vehicle chase. 

Max doesn’t speak much in this, since he’s played by Tom Hardy, that’s a good thing. Immortan Joe, Rictus Erectus, the Bullet Farmer, and the other villains are all very interesting. The truck with the flame-throwing guitar player and accompanying drummers may be the craziest thing ever. 

The budget here was insane, and it shows it. It looks good, the characters are fun, and it’s non-stop action.

Duel (1971) 

  • Directed by Steven Spielberg

  • Written by Richard Matheson

  • Stars Dennis Weaver, Jacqueline Scott, Eddie Firestone

  • Run Time:  1 Hour, 30 Minutes

  • Trailer:

Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone

This has an unrelenting low level horror and feeling of stress that builds as David the ordinary guy gets trapped in an unrelenting situation. There are no supernatural elements or monsters, just a crazy, fixated truck driver, and that makes it that much more chilling. It’s super dated, but it still works and holds up well, with excellent direction from a young Steven Spielberg. We liked it.

Spoilery Synopsis

David Mann drives his car through the downtown of the big city as he listens to traffic reports and talk shows on the radio. He eventually makes it out of town, driving through the hills and mountains. He comes up behind a large tanker truck that’s driving pretty slow in a no-passing zone. He passes the truck anyway, but then the truck speeds up and passes him

David passes the truck once again, and this time, loses the truck. He soon comes to a gas station and stops in for a refill. The truck pulls in right next to him. The man at the gas station fills him up and checks out the engine; David might need a new radiator hose. David calls his wife on the payphone to apologize for their fight. His wife calls him a wimp and says he needs to start standing up for himself. 

David gets back in his car and leaves, never laying eyes on the truck driver. It’s not long before the truck has come up behind him, so he speeds up. The truck is now tailgating him pretty severely and then cuts him off, slowing way down in front of David. The truck also won’t let David pass in the passing lane. When he motions for David to pass, there’s another car coming the other way that he barely misses head on. 

David manages to get ahead finally by taking a little bypass, but the truck once again catches up with him. The truck bangs into David’s rear end and gets right up close, honking all the way. David starts getting scared, but there’s not much he can do. 

David manages to pull over and nearly crashes in a cafe’s parking lot. He goes inside and calms down. He tells himself that it’s all over now, and he’ll be fine. He looks out the window and sees the truck out there, waiting. He looks around the cafe, trying to figure out which patron is the evil driver. 

David sits there and thinks through the problem, and he knows he doesn’t have a lot of choices. He thinks about confronting the other patrons about it, but as his wife said, he’s a wimp. He does tell one guy to “cut it out,” but the guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about and the two men end up in a fistfight; David gets thrown out. The man gets into a different truck; that wasn’t him. The big truck eventually leaves, again with no look at the driver. 

David gets back into his own car and continues down the road. He’s soon flagged down by a school bus driver with a problem, but he says he never saw a truck pass. David agrees to help push the stalled school bus with his own car, which is far too small for the job. He gets his own bumper stuck under the bus, which just makes the school bus kids mock him even harder. He soon notices the truck has returned and is obviously waiting for him; he turned around and came back. 

The trucker then helps the bus driver get unstuck as David drives away as quickly as he can. David has to stop to let a train pass, and sure enough, the truck catches up. It starts slowly pushing his car into the passing train. The train passes before it’s too late, and David runs off the road. 

Once again, David catches up with the slow-moving truck, but he stops at another gas station. He can see the truck stop ahead to wait on him. He makes a phone call to the police. As he talks to the police, the truck drives right through the phone booth, and David barely jumps out in time. He runs over the proprietor’s cages and releases rattlesnakes and tarantulas. David takes off at top speed and hides his car around a corner. 

David decides to park and take a long nap to give the truck some time to move on. He eventually does drive on– until he sees the truck waiting for him again. David finally gets out of the car and walks to the truck, he’s going for a face-to-face confrontation. The truck pulls away, not letting David get close. 

David flags down an old couple and tells them to call the police, but the old people aren’t interested. Then, the truck driver backs right up to the car to interrupt them. 

David has had enough. This time, he puts on his seatbelt, so you know he’s serious. The chase resumes. The two vehicles fly through the twisty mountain roads until David sees a police car. No, it’s not a police car; it’s just colored like one. David just cannot get his car to go fast enough to outrun that truck!

Just as it’s starting to look like David is going to outrun the truck, his weak radiator hose finally breaks. It all gets very tense as he makes it to the top of the hill and starts to coast down again in neutral. 

David finally just crashes. The car barely moves, but he gets it running again and heads up another hill. He wedges his briefcase to the gas pedal and steers head-on at the truck. David jumps free. The truck hits the car and can’t see where he’s going. The truck and car go over a cliff. David watches for a long time to see if the other driver gets out, but he doesn’t. 

David sits down and throws pebbles at the wreck as the closing credits roll. 

Commentary

I like how they show David going at crazy speeds to escape the truck, like 70 miles per hour; I assume the speed limits were all 55 back then. The front of the truck was covered in old license plates, presumably from his previous victims. 

There’s really only one character, and most of the “dialogue” is his own internal narrative. We never do see the truck driver, or have any idea what his motive is; he’s just a crazy man with a truck. 

Probably the reason this works so well is because it’s a simple premise that could actually happen. It’s clearly influenced everything from “Mad Max” to “Jeepers Creepers.”

Rubber (2010) 

  • Directed by Quentin Dupieux

  • Written by Quentin Dupieux

  • Stars Stephen Spinella, Roxane Mesquida, Wings Hauser

  • Run Time: 1 Hour, 22 Minutes

  • Trailer:

Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone

This was weird and funny, and a lot of things happened for no reason. But they make a point of explaining that. Many of the people know they are in a movie, so none of it is real for them, except that it’s very real when heads explode, and the body count climbs upward. It’s a crazy ride that we enjoyed.

Spoilery Synopsis

We open on a bunch of chairs out on the road. A man holds dozens of binoculars as he waits. A car drives down the road, swerving into and knocking over all the chairs. A policeman gets out of the trunk and asks us trivia questions about movies; all the questions have “no reason” as the answer. “Life itself is filled with no reason. The film you are about to see today is an homage to ‘no reason.’” 

He drives away, and the man with the binoculars starts handing them out to the audience, who turn around to watch the movie… “It’s already boring,” whines one kid. All they see is a dump. Credits roll. 

We eventually focus on a tire, half buried in the dirt. It starts rotating all by itself. It struggles a bit but eventually gets up and starts rolling through the desert. It slowly and deliberately rolls over a plastic water bottle, crushing it. Then a scorpion. Maybe this tire has a mean streak. When it finds a glass beer bottle, it can’t crush it, so the tire shakes with rage and breaks the bottle with its mind. This tire has psychokinetic powers! Night falls, and the tire tips over and goes to sleep. Because it’s tired (nyuck nyuck) .

In the morning, the tire wakes up and gets rolling. The audience has camped all night as well, and they wake up and get back to the show. The tire has a drink and spots a rabbit, which it makes explode with its mind. 

The tire eventually comes to a road, where it watches a car drive by. The tire vibrates, and the car breaks down. It sneaks up on the car but is suddenly hit by a truck that didn’t see the tire in the road. The car and truck get away, but a crow isn’t so lucky. The tire follows the truck to a gas station, where the tire starts vibrating maniacally. The man in the truck’s head explodes. 

The tire comes upon a motel, and it sees the door to one of the rooms is open. It peeks inside, and the girl from the car we saw earlier is in there. The girl gets naked and takes a shower, and the tire watches. The tire gets a room of its own and watches movies all night. It has the volume turned up loud, so the girl in the next room is annoyed. 

The accountant, the man who handed out the binoculars, is also at the motel. He gets a phone call from his master, and we see that he has turkeys in his room. In the morning, he brings the movie spectators some turkey, and they all fight over it. 

Back at the motel, the housekeeper finds the tire in the shower, which is rude. She throws the tire out into the parking lot, but the tire gets his revenge. The tire then stalks the girl from the car while she’s at the pool; the tire is becoming obsessed. 

The movie audience starts getting sick from the poisoned turkey they all ate. The man in the wheelchair didn’t eat any, and he gloats about it. 

A boy sees the tire kill someone. He tells his father and the policeman from earlier. The policeman says the poison has taken effect, and now they can all stop acting. Are they part of the show? 

We cut back to the audience; everyone but the wheelchair man is dead or unconscious. The policeman tells the other cops to stop acting like this is real life and that they can all stop and go home. They argue, but he demonstrates that it’s all fake by having one of the other cops shoot him multiple times. “This situation is not real.” The dead housekeeper is still dead though, which is confusing. The accountant explains that one of the spectators isn’t dead because of not eating the turkey, so they all have to continue. 

The tire makes the motel manager’s head explode as the cop watches. Lieutenant Chad realizes that the killer is the tire; it says so right there in his script. The accountant brings food to the wheelchair man, but he refuses to eat any of it. He wants to watch the story to the end, which makes the accountant nervous. Eventually, the accountant eats the food and dies from poison as well. 

The tire admires itself in a mirror. The boy Zach talks to the tire; he knows about the tire, so the tire rolls away. Chad tells the other cops to round up all the tires in the area. 

One of the cops catches up to the tire, but the tire makes his head explode. Later, the tire rolls up to a place where a man is burning a bunch of tires. 

Three days later, there is carnage everywhere. There are headless bodies all over the place. The police have tracked the tire to a house where it’s watching races on TV. The police set up a trap with explosives using a dynamite-wrapped doll of Sheila, the girl the tire likes. Will the tire fall for it? Sheila won’t read the script; it’s just too awful. 

The wheelchair guy bangs on the van door and tells Sheila and Chad that he doesn’t understand the plot right now. He asks why they aren’t using a flamethrower or bazooka or something. They argue about how he should have just eaten the turkey. 

Finally, the tire starts to vibrate, and he makes the dummy’s head explode. The explosives don’t go off, so Chad goes in with his shotgun. Chad shoots the tire and brings its corpse out to the wheelchair man, who says that’s a crappy ending. 

Suddenly, a tricycle rolls out of the house; it’s been reincarnated. The tricycle makes the wheelchair man explode. Chad drops Sheila off at her car, and they both drive away. The tricycle moves on down the road, collecting other living tires as it passes… 

Commentary

This is just a stupid concept, but it’s all surprisingly entertaining. It’s all very meta since the cop knows they're in a movie. I’m not sold on the idea that the characters know it’s a movie and even have scripts, but overall, it’s just weird for “no reason.” 

It’s dumb, but it’s a good kind of dumb. Very entertaining!


Stay tuned for more reviews next week!

Contact Info:

https://www.horrorguys.com

  • Subscribe by email:

0 Comments
Horror Bulletin
Horror Bulletin
Join Kevin and Brian for a weekly podcast episode. Every Friday, the guys release both a video and audio podcast episode that covers everything new in horror, along with a handful of great (and awful) movie reviews!