Last night, I watched Karloff in TARGETS. He's wonderfully old fashioned, and looks grateful to be in Peter Bogdanovitch's film, which allows him mostly to be himself. Bogdanovitch says in the dvd interview that he doesn't like horror movies, so this is the only one he made (for Roger Corman). Few contemporary viewers would recognize it as a "horror" film. They would call it a "thriller." I would call it a horror film, however, for the simple reason that seeing innocent people gunned down from the killer's point of view disturbed me more than it excited me. In a thriller, I'm excited to see characters attempt to outwit some closing trap. In most contemporary horror films, I'm supposed to be excited by seeing characters grow terrified, and frequently die in terrible suffering... though that's not quite what TARGETS asks of me. Instead of titillating me with fanciful creatures--e.g., Frankenstein's monster, pinhead, Jason--TARGETS asks me to recognize a 'new' kind of horror, committed by an 'ordinary' boy, that's been unleashed in the real world. The horror in TARGETS is of a 'natural' monstrosity, which appears to be without logical explanation, on the one hand, but stirs our suspicion that it is the creature of changes in contemporary life--as we see them in the uglified landscape of drive ins, car dealerships and the highways of the southern California among which TARGETS is set--for which we are all somehow mutely responsible, on the other hand.
Most contemporary horror films are a far cry from either the kind of 'horror' film Karloff appeared in or Bogdanovitch's film. Karloff would say that 'classic' horror "terrified," but did not "horrify" audiences. I don't at all enjoy contemporary horror. To me, it's 'violence porn,' and offends my sensibilities more than does 'erotic' porn. I do enjoy TARGETS, and every performance I've seen by Karloff, so far. He's even good in THE TERROR, which is Corman shlock at (what I hope) is his worst.