It seems as if every four or five years, there’s a sudden surge in (for lack of a better word) interest in one serial killer that once plagued people’s fears. David Berkowitz became a much talked about topic in the late nineties, and then Charles Manson, and Eileen Wuornos and the cycle, whether we like it or not, will continue because serial killers continue to elude us to this day. What eludes us more about a serial killer is not how they killed, but why they killed. But when we never discover why they killed, that only serves to add appeal to our sense of rationale.
The only things scarier about a killer without mercy, is a killer with no motive. It defies the human mind for something so irrational to occur, which accounts for the many, many books we have on serial killers with psychologists, religious gurus, and or detectives attempting to add rationale. We have to be able to make sense of everything, or else our sense of security is gone. Currently, the serial killer that is making big waves in Hollywood is the Zodiac Killer.
“The Zodiac” is only one of four or five films about The Zodiac Killer, and he’s about to enter the American consciousness once again, whether we like it or not. Ironically enough, one of the Zodiac Killer’s last letters discussed how he was waiting for a good film about him. He wondered who would play him. What’s frightening is not that he was an utter attention w***e who possibly did kill for the fun of it, but that he was possibly a movie buff. But alas, somewhere, if he is still alive to this day, he must be fuming, as director Bulkley craftily never shows his face, nor does he ever make the Zodiac killer’s voice all too audible (take that, you bastard!).
Before Fincher introduces his film to theaters, we have the more independent alternative known as “The Zodiac” a film very much in the spirit of “The Town that Dread Sundown”, about the killings that occurred in the late sixties, and Bulkley‘s film draws its focus on the effect the murders had on the town, and its all consuming nature on one detective and his family. Justin Chambers gives a strong performance in a very good cast of actors, as Matt Parish, a man in Vallejo who seeks out the zodiac killer to no avail, while his wife Laura and son Johnny are forced to remain in the background and live in fear.
Though “The Zodiac” is filled with a strong premise and taut atmosphere, Bulkley hardly ever gives us a reason to care for Johnny or Laura. Why is Johnny so obsessed with the zodiac killer? It’s never really explained to the audience, and we’re left assuming. Rory Culkin gives a good performance as the glum child looking for a way to help in the killings and make his town safe, but once his family begins to crumble due to the obsession, he feels helpless, as well as Tunney who is a wife watching everything she loves sink into this murderer. Bulkley’s portrayal of the murders work with surprising emotion; watching these poor people enjoying life only to have it yanked away by some utterly impotent sadist is wrenching, and “The Zodiac” is a truly grim and awfully bleak murder mystery about a killer who was never found.
Here’s hoping he never gets his wish of seeing himself up on the screen. Keep him a faceless entity, a no name, a never was, and draw him out once and for all.