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This is an excellent thriller that captures a changing of the guard: the monster guard, that is. It features horror legend Boris Karloff, who plays a version of himself named Byron Orlok (love that name), who is bowing out of the horror movie business with one final movie, the real Corman production The Terror. Meanwhile, there's Bobby Thompson, who is the kind of family man you'd want to invite over to drink with and watch the big game. Without warning, he snaps and goes on a sniping spree around L.A.

What makes the movie work for me is how they play Bobby up as the ideal American male. Besides casting Tim O'Kelly, who looks like he belongs in the typical 60s beach movie, there's his love of Baby Ruth candy bars and his too perfect pastel-shaded house. Few things in movies scare me more than villains like Bobby because they show every sign that there's nothing to fear about them, which makes their chaotic evil alignment hard to understand and therefore all the scarier. In other words, he's in good company with the villains in The Vanishing (1988) and Vengeance is Mine. His highway shooting spree is an ideal demonstration of this, which terrifies not only for how realistic and how much of a masterclass in tension and release it is, but also because there's no rhyme or reason to who Bobby targets.

Regarding the scenes with Karloff, I read a critique that they should have been minimized or done away with entirely to spend more time with Bobby, but I disagree. Besides being relevant to the changing of the guard theme, they provide an ideal cake to the icing that is Bobby's rampage and they're why the drive-in theater finale is so suspenseful. Removing these scenes would also deprive us of Karloff's breathtaking delivery of The Appointment in Samarra story. You also have to give credit to Bogdanovich, Platt and company for using more actual locations instead of sets, a decision that has the added benefit of making the movie an ideal time capsule of late '60s southern California. All in all, it's the kind of thriller that is scary enough to be labeled as horror, and since the Bobbys of America continue to be the reason why so many are afraid to go to public places, let their kids go to public schools, etc., it's also scarily prescient.