Real-life serial killer exposed in ‘Zodiac’

Janine Elliot

The 1960s and 70s were a turbulent time in American history, yet there was one man in particular that caused a great deal of panic and fear on the West Coast.

The serial killer known simply as the “Zodiac,” left a trail of dead bodies throughout the Bay Area of California. The film “Zodiac,” directed by Dave Fincher of “Seven” and “Fight Club,” captures the hysteria that ensued once this man began sending messages to the area’s largest newspapers, disclosing precise details about the murders he committed and was about to commit.

The film opens with the killing of two young teens found at a Lover’s Lane and the meticulous if random killings continue throughout the rest of the film. The Zodiac was obsessed with gaining publicity and it is said that he claimed responsibility for murders he did not even commit. In one of his first letters to the San Francisco Chronicle, he reveals that he believes humans are the most dangerous game to be hunted; essentially setting the tone for this creepy thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Robert Graysmith, whose book about the “Zodiac” was the inspiration for this film, is a cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle who becomes increasingly enthralled with the serial killer.

Graysmith, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, made it his duty to solve the case. Gyllenhaal captured Graysmith’s unrelenting obsession with cracking the codes and clues the Zodiac left behind. Gyllenhaal played a quiet genius who helped keep the plot exciting as he was constantly coming up with new theories as to what the Zodiac’s next move would be.

Gyllenhaal worked alongside Paul Avery, an eccentric crime reporter for The San Francisco Chronicle, who was played by Robert Downey Jr. Downey’s character offered some much needed comic relief in the film, for the anticipation as to who the true Zodiac is became quite nerve-racking.

The Zodiac was clever and managed to outsmart the FBI and police, setting them up for a cat and mouse game. The mysterious serial killer set one FBI agent in particular, played by Mark Ruffalo, on a wild goose chase. Ruffalo realistically plays the smart yet frustrated FBI agent who always seems to be one step away from cracking the case.

The movie is long and detailed but it needed to be in order to capture just how elusive the Zodiac was. It is one of the finest crime movies to hit theaters in years and as long as you can stand the 160 minute run you will be in for a gripping thriller about the most notorious serial killer of our time.and he may still be out there.