Zodiac (2007)

With Halloween this week, I turned my armchair towards the really creepy movie, Zodiac. This is the film that tells the story of the Zodiac Killer who had a string of serial murders starting in the late 60's and continuing into the 70's. He taunted investigators with his letters to the newspapers often containing ciphers and other cryptic messages. Zodiac stars Jake Gyllenhall, Mark Ruffalo, and Anthony Edwards.

The film opens in 1968, at what became to be known as the Lake Herman killing. Zodiac shoots two high school students who are at a desolate lover's lane. He then calls the police to tell them where to find the bodies. After his next murder, he sends letters to the local papers and describes details that only the killer would know, along with a substitution cipher. Creepy.

As the film develops, it is mostly formulaic. One seriously creepy murder after another, although this killer, unlike some other serial murders doesn't follow a strict pattern as he uses different methods, and age groups.

Somewhat predictably, as is par for the course in such films, the police are seen as rather inept, and several steps behind the Zodiac Killer as the spree develops, and the bodies pile up. Hampering their efforts is that the murders took place in different counties, and they're not doing a good job of sharing the leads and information that develops. Ruffalo and Edwards ably play two of the detectives on the case.

As this story develops, Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhall), a political cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper becomes rather obsessed with this story. He eventually quits his job to investigate the Zodiac murders full time. His efforts culminate in a published book, Zodiac.

This was a good choice for a creepy Halloween thriller, but it really was only slightly above average. For starters, it's over two and half hours, and it definitely needed some nip and tuck to keep the pace tighter. Maybe we didn't need to portray every murder in such detail? In addition, while there is plenty of tension, it doesn't build like it could have as the story progresses; at times it feels like we're going nowhere fast, and we are. Also, while it is well acted, there is no standout performance here. Finally, Zodiac is kind of a downer, as these folks become obsessed with the killer, and it ruins their lives as they pursue him. Therefore, if you really want a crime thriller then this is a reasonable choice, but I would say that it is good, and not excellent.

Of note, the Zodiac case is still open, and while there was one suspect that seemed likely, forensic evidence using modern DNA analysis did not support him being the killer.

Overall Grade: B

Reviewed by Jonas

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