1968. In a Northern California town, teenagers parking at night are being killed. The police do their best to sell the first attack as a botched robbery, but then another murder happens, and the killer, dubbing himself the Zodiac, turns out to be very media-savvy. Charged with tracking him down is Justin Chambers, and his frustration with the case spills into his home life, straining his relationship with his wife (Robin Tunney) and worshipful son (Rory Culkin).
The murders are for…efully presented, but avoid being too lurid, and rather than dwell on the killer (difficult, since he was never caught), the film keeps its focus on Chambers and the personal collateral damage of the investigation. The budget recreation of the era works well, as does the movie as a whole. It isn’t groundbreaking, and it shamelessly reuses one of The Silence of the Lamb’s editing tricks, but as unpretentiously chilly entertainment, it does the job quite nicely.
The score has been given a very fine mix. The bass is throbbing and ominous, and all sorts of creepy sounds skitter from speaker to speaker. The dialogue is clear and undistorted, and the sound effects are given a fairly solid surround presence (fireworks and the gunshots are especially impressive, surround the viewer alarmingly with the force of the blasts).
There’s a heavy emphasis on brown and yellows, giving the film a warm, nostalgic glow in ironic counterpoint to the horrors being perpetrated. The contrasts and blacks are very strong, pumping up the aforementioned effect. The image is sharp, there are no edge enhancement problems, and there is no grain to speak of. The transfer is thus a handsome one, serving the film well. The “16×9 anamorphic full frame” format referred to on the case is actually widescreen, thank goodness.
The extras are, on the one hand, relatively generous for a DTV release, but also leave one wanting more. Director/co-writer Alexander Bulkley, writer Kelly Bulkley and editor Greg Tillman provide a lively, informative commentary. The making-of featurette is the usual puff piece, and hardly worth the time spent watching it. More interesting is a chronology of the killings, and reproductions of the Zodiac’s letters and the ciphers he sent to the papers. These last features make one wish for a bit more background on the actual case. Oh well. The usual trailer gallery is on hand, as well.
It does leave one wondering what David Fincher will do with his Zodiac film, but in the meantime, this is just fine to be getting along with.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Making-of Featurette
- Chronology of the Zodiac Killings
- Zodiac Letters and Ciphers