Kind of a random review to post on eSplatter in 2007, but we've never run a review of it before and as Steven Spielberg's first real movie and arguably his only real horror movie, if you don't count "Jaws" it's a worthy entry. It was actually a TV movie in the U.S. but hit theaters in Europe with some added scenes added to lengthen its time and make it more film-like (expletives were included for Europe). Actually horror movies were so good in the very early 1970s, that even the TV movies had something to offer. Needless to say, it was clear from this that Spielberg was an uber-talent.
Weaver plays a wimpy businessman on a road trip to a business appointment, which is taking him through the California desert. Derided by his wife over the phone for being such a wuss, he eventually winds up in a major road conflict with a mysterious, unseen truck driver. In fact, we only ever get to see the truck driver's bare arm as it waves him to pass before trying to run him off the road.
The film is terrifying because, as Weaver is attempting to get folks in the desert to believe that he is being terrorized by a mysterious truck driver, he finds no support. In fact, his attempts at identifying the driver at a local truck stop and confronting him only lead to embarrassment over mistaken identities and winds up getting his ass kicked. People think he's crazy. Eventually it becomes clear that only he can do battle with the truck driver if he wants to survive.
The film pits the awesome talents of Richard Matheson (the novel "I Am Legend" and the screenplays of "Fall of the House of Usher," "Pit and Pendulum" and countless "Twilight Zone" episodes) with Spielberg, delivering one of the best genre films of the past 50 years.
Spielberg's other experience with horror was directing an episode in Rod Serling's "Night Gallery" TV movie in 1969. That TV movie would eventually spawn the "NG" series of the early 1970s, the best horror series of that decade.
Pretty much every road movie since from "The Hitcher" to "Jeepers Creepers" and "Joy Ride" borrows liberally from this masterpiece. None of them are close to as good. It's a shame Spielberg never really made another horror movie again.