Film Review: Zodiac

by Pat Johnson

Very few suspense movies have enough faith in their characters and story to avoid the clichés of their genre. Most thrillers can't resist the villain kidnapping the wife/girlfriend/daughter of the hero and the inevitable confrontation where the villain falls out a window, onto something sharp and then explodes. Zodiac avoids almost every thriller pitfall and gives the audience some very real scares (one moment in particular is burned into my mind).

Part of what separates Zodiac from standard thriller fare is that it is based on actual events and the movie is more about the problems encountered by the cops and media than the killer's crimes. Some gore-seeking Tarantino fans will argue that the film's lack of shameless scare moments, a larger-than-life evildoer, and unnecessary chase scenes makes the movie too slow or boring. I would argue that the knowledge that all this actually happened is more terrifying than seeing an actor strap on a mask and wave a plastic knife at people. This movie blends history, suspense, and character into a truly unique narrative. The cast of this film will constantly impress you and the intricate detail of recreated 1970's San Francisco ain't too shabby either. Credit director David Fincher (Fight Club, The Game) with making a film that focuses on the people most affected by the Zodiac killings rather than just killing.

Go see this one; it raises the bar for every cat-and-mouse, thrills-and-chills, hide-and-seek, he's dead-oops-no he's not, Karo syrup drenched, Patterson/Crichton/Harris-inspired, all the scary bits are in the preview, this time the killer's dead for sure (until the sequel), piece of hack crap that passes for a thriller these days. You'll be glad you did.

10 guesses as to what kicked off that bitter rant (out of 11)