Thursday, January 5, 2017
After seeing his latest B-movie production, Byron Orlok, an ageing horror film actor, decides to quit and retire. This shocks the studio, and especially young director Sammy who wanted to make a dramatic, serious film with Orlok in the lead. However, Orlok's secretary Jenny manages to persuade him otherwise. In the meantime, Bobby, a young Vietnam war veteran, goes berserk and shoots his mother, wife and neighbor in his home. he takes his guns, goes to the roof of an oil raffinery and starts shooting at driving cars on the highway. When the police starts chasing him, Bobby flees with his car into a drive-inn cinema, where Orlok's film "The Terror" is shown. Bobby starts shooting at the people in the cars, all until Orlok shows up and slaps him, causing him to stop shooting. The police then arrests Bobby.
Even though it is set up as an exploitation film that appeals towards the audience seeking thrills and action, Peter Bogdanovich's feature length debut "Targets" is a surprisingly clever independent film, done with a lot of finesse and subtlety, whereas it also proved to have a sly metafilm touch by having veteran horror film actor Boris Karloff play a fictional version of himself, Orlok, and even featuring clips from his (real) movies under this name, Hawks' "The Criminal Code" and Corman's "The Terror". It is a minimalistic thriller, with very little dialogue, exploring the issues of violence and how, once it is triggered, it goes out of control and offers no explanations (though a very subtle scene reveals that Bobby was a Vietnam War veteran, with just enough implications for the story to work), and it is interesting how these two stories — the sniper Bobby and the horror film star Orlok — combine in the finale. Critics rightfully praised two sequences of almost Hitchockian suspense — the first one where Bobby goes on the roof of an oil refinery in order to shoot randomly at driving cars on the highway, and the second one where he hides behind the screening canvas, using a small hole to aim and shoot at viewers in their cars while the horror movie "The Terror" is playing on the screen, which gives it a chilling "3-D" context. However, Karloff's role is rather thin in the finale, not enough to truly give him a worthy farewell (it was one of his last roles), and more could have been done to link the two stories into a single point, a one that could have used the viewers' obsession with horror films (and thereby violence) with a stronger conclusion than the rather lukewarm ending which seems like an anti-climax