Zodiac

  • 2006
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Crime, Thriller

"I am waiting for a good movie about me," wrote the serial murderer dubbed "Zodiac," who terrorized San Francisco and the Bay Area in the late 1960s and '70s. Unfortunately, director-cowriter Alexander Bulkley's poky, formulaic police procedural isn't it. By and large, the film sticks close to the facts of the case — though it alters odd details, such...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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"I am waiting for a good movie about me," wrote the serial murderer dubbed "Zodiac," who terrorized San Francisco and the Bay Area in the late 1960s and '70s. Unfortunately, director-cowriter Alexander Bulkley's poky, formulaic police procedural isn't it. By and large, the film sticks close to the facts of the case — though it alters odd details, such as calling the Vallejo Times-Herald, which received many of the killer's taunting letters, the Vallejo Tribune and renaming Solano County's Lake Berryessa, where two victims were attacked, Lake Helena. Zodiac, a compulsive letter writer who claimed to have killed dozens of victims but was only officially credited with five murders (two other victims survived). Although many investigators strongly suspected a man named Arthur Leigh Allen, no one was ever charged and with no killer on whom to focus, Bulkley instead scrutinizes the unraveling of a fictional police detective while attempting to locate the case's lunacy within the larger context of the turbulent '60s. December 20, 1968: Two Vallejo, Calif., teenagers on a first date are brutally murdered while parked in a wooded lovers' lane. Vallejo Police Chief Frank Perkins (Philip Baker Hall) hands the case to serious, straightlaced Matt Parish (Justin Chambers of TV's Grey's Anatomy), who lives in town with his wife, Laura (Robin Tunney) and their inquisitive 12-year-old, Johnny (Rory Culkin). More murders follow, and the killer begins to send letters marked with astrological symbols and containing hidden coded messages to the newspapers. Frightened townspeople begin locking their doors and looking suspiciously at their neighbors, and pressure from the police department, the press and the community at large takes its toll on Parish, who spends less time with his family and more time drinking in cop bars. Johnny secretly immerses himself in the case as a way of feeling closer to his father, as his horrified mother discovers when she stumbles upon his cache of lurid newspaper clippings. And then the killings end on October 11, 1969, with the slaying of a San Francisco taxi driver. Letters continue to come to newspapers, boasting of more murders and threatening spectacular atrocities, like disabling a school bus and killing all the children as they try to escape. But the Zodiac case receded into limbo, and Bulkley's film ends on an inconclusive and profoundly unsatisfying note. Made in 2003 and shelved until 2006, ZODIAC's brief theatrical run was designed to coincide with the higher-profile release of David Fincher's ZODIAC, which examines the case through the character of real-life true-crime writer and Zodiac expert Robert Graysmith; Fincher's film wound up being delayed and didn't open until the following year.

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  • Released: 2006
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: "I am waiting for a good movie about me," wrote the serial murderer dubbed "Zodiac," who terrorized San Francisco and the Bay Area in the late 1960s and '70s. Unfortunately, director-cowriter Alexander Bulkley's poky, formulaic police procedural isn't it.… (more)

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