The rifle’s sights settle on an old man across the street. He has a familiar face however, young Bobby Thompson is more interested in the gun. He returns it to the shop owner with a pleased grin. It’s the shop owner that notices the old man is horror legend Byron Orlock. Bobby smiles, pleasantly but aloof. He purchases the rifle with a check, accepted without any identification due to his “honest face”.
Bobby leaves the store, opening the trunk of his white Mustang to reveal revolvers, semi automatics, shotguns, all carefully laid out. With the premium on space, the rifled is laid diagonally over the other firearms.
Bobby calmly speeds back home, head bouncing in the wind. He passes a few road side fuel tanks peering over the highway and they capture the boys interest.
Arriving at home in time for dinner with his wife and parents, Bobby tells them of how he saw Byron Orlock. The gun store is erased from his account. Orlock stood on the road as he drove home.
The role of Boris Karloff in the success of Targets cannot be understated. Apart from giving a terrific performance as Orlock (which often sounds like ‘Arloff’ when characters speak it), his presence pulls this film into the horror tradition. Theres no shortage of films involving mass shooters and spree killers, but they tend to get grouped into dramas or thrillers.
Mass murderers often meticulously plan their reigns of terror, scouting locations and acquiring resources long before killing anyone. But to the outside world their patterns seem random and incomprehensible.
The crucial scene in the film comes when Orlock recites an old story: a man sees Death at a market and immediately flees to nearby Samara. When pressed as why Death scared the man so, Death demurred. “It was just shock to see him in this market when we have an appointment in Samara tonight”. This story represents a typical horror story. The watch-like logic. The victim’s complicity in his own death due to a core character flaw. Bobby’s horror stands in stark contrast to all of this. His victims are chosen out of opportunity--being at the wrong place at the wrong time, appearing clearly in a rifle’s sight by bad luck alone. There’s no lessons to be learned here, there’s no advice to prevent yourself from becoming a victim to such an attack.
Targets opens with a sequence from the Terror where the villanous Karloff and a young Jack Nicholson fight to the death. Bobby, though is a coward. He shrinks in front of any form of male authority. His father, whom he calls ‘sir’ and ‘sir’ alone…. His shooting spree is ended when the eldery Orlock gets within arms length. The boy could probably overpower the older man, but instead collapses.