It's probably not a good
thing that most movies about real-life serial killers now tend to glamorize
the murderers. There have, in fact, been a whole series of basically
straight-to-video bio-films of some of the most horrific criminals in
criminal history -- films like The Hillside Strangler, Ed Gein, Ted Bundy,
Jeffrey Dahmer, Gacy and others. These movies -- many made by
the same producers -- try to seem like they are giving an impartial
reporting of the facts, yet they have almost always have a tendency to
wallow in the horrors that they are reporting.
Even on the rare occasions
when the killers are seriously taken on as cautionary tales in major motion
pictures -- like Charlize Theron's spectacular performance as Aileen Wournos
in Monster -- the audience is still asked to sympathize with someone
who is doing unforgivable things.
Zodiac is in its way
more disturbing and scary -- and a much better film -- than any of these
films for a very simple reason. We can't be asked to relate to the
psychopath, because no one knows for sure who the Zodiac killer really was.
terrorized the San Francisco bay area in the late 60s-early 70s, but to this
day, nearly 40 years after his first killings, no one has been indicted for
the crimes. Nor does anyone know for sure how many victims he (or she,
potentially, I suppose) claimed.
unease and paranoia of the 70s -- in fact it feels like a classic old film
of the era much more than any current film. It has strong acting,
complicated characters and an ambiguous ending. The suspects whip back
and forth between several possibilities. Even at the end, when the
film intimates that it may be one specific man -- the same suspect many
people, including the book which this is based on, have long suspected --
they still have to acknowledge that he was exonerated by all current
detecting techniques. They also bring in another suspect towards the
end who at the very least seems rather suspicious and several major pieces
of evidence seem to point to. Zodiac
So was he
guilty, just a coincidence
or a McGuffin? We never know, and to the credit of
screenwriter James Vanderbilt and director David Fincher, they make no claim
to have the answer either. Zodiac is not a typical serial
killer film because it is mostly about those searching for the killer, not
the killer himself. It is about the police and the journalists who
follow his tracks even when the trail is beyond cold -- and the film takes
place over a longer than twenty-year long period, during which the criminal
disappears for years and years at a time. Long after the rest of the
world has moved on to newer, fresher horrors, these men try to find justice
in a world where it just does not always appear. (3/07)
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: March 3, 2007.