Thursdays At The Cinema: Targets (1968)
By Jonathan Balofsky On 8 Feb, 2018 At 09:58 PM | Categorized As Featured, ROG News, Thursdays At The Cinema | With 0 Comments


Welcome to the debut of a new weekly column, in which I will be discussing films of all kind., and we will kick things off with the 1968 classic Targets. This was the second to last film for the late Bros Karloff and serves as the perfect sendoff to his career. In the film Karloff plays Byron Orlok, a horror icon who is retiring after a lengthy career. He feels the age of monster movies is over and that the real world has more horror to it now than the movies can ever show. He is soon proven right, by the other main character of the film, Bobby Thompson, a Vietnam vet played by Tim O’Kelly. Bobby has severe mental health issues stemming from PTSD due to his time in Vietnam and slowly loses his mask of normalcy, becoming a serial killer in the process.

Targets marks a turning point for horror, since while this is not the first slasher film, it does mark the transition from the monster movies to the slasher genre that came to dominate horror films in the coming years. In many ways, this is a passing of the torch from one generation to the next. It is not a monster film itself, but rather the film that acknowledge the end of the era, and would not have had any of the emotional impact it had without Karloff in it. Karloff was only supposed to do a couple of days of shooting that he owed Roger Corman, but became so impressed with the film that he filmed several more days for free because he believed in it.

The horror portrayed in Targets is of a very real, human nature and for good reason. The film’s killer Bobby Thompson is a sniper because he was based off of the real life mass murderer Charles Whitman, The Texas Tower Shooter, which caused many problems for the film. Whitman’s killings had only been two years prior and many felt the film was in poor taste  and just too soon to do. Looking back now however, we can appreciate the film a lot more. The pacing is perfect as Bobby and Byron’s stories are developed separately and naturally until they finally intersect, with the two playing opposites to each other in terms of their characters as well. Byron is a senior man who portrays monsters and villains for film but in real life is a nice gentleman who means well. Bobby is a good looking young man who presents an ideal image of a young American, but is actually deeply troubled beneath the surface.  Bobby may use a gun, but he is still very much a slasher in terms of how he operates.

The tone the film set is nothing short of brilliant, purposely lacking music in order to create a tense atmosphere using the idea of “nothing is scarier” to great effect. Add to this the way the camera moves at each major instance, and you can see how often this movie was imitated, with the origin not being realized. In addition to being Karloff’s sendoff, Targets laid the groundwork for what was to come and that is fitting. Karloff was part of the height of the classic horror cycle and helped start a new cycle as his parting gift to film. If you have not yet seen targets, I urge you to check it out. it is truly an amazing film.

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