Luke Poff’s review published on Letterboxd:
I have to know.
Okay. Second Fincher film. Easy to see what all the hype over this guy is about.
*walks around house checking locks for the third time, confirms whereabouts of my shotgun before sitting down to write*
Holy crap. What a piece of work. I had reservations about watching this one, stemming mainly from a wariness in general of movies based off of true crime stories. The idea smacks of exploitation to me, which is why I haven’t watched many in this genre, but in this case, after watching nearly three hours of careful cinematic construction, I can’t help but think this film was made in earnest pursuit of truth, at least on Fincher’s part.
I’ll use that as a segway to my personal takeaway, something massively profound and brain-melting (not): We don’t know who the Zodiac was.
Oh, we have theories, we have people who truly believe it was Allen, we have people who deny it was Allen, etc. etc. When you boil the whole tangled mess down to the key component, we’re left with a gnawing, painful uncertainty. Human beings hate uncertainty. People have a lurid fascination with true crime because there are usually answers. The majority of serial killers get caught, the murders get solved, the degenerates responsible talk to shrinks and we discuss how childhood trauma played a role in their wrongdoings. Our world is obsessed with explaining human behavior; from Freud to Skinner we try to fit degeneracy in a box and label the cause. So and so acted thus because he was sexually repressed, or had such and such mental illnesses, yada yada yada. We like to think we can trace the root cause of all human behavior to something quantifiable and measurable, something naturalistic.
All of that to say, the reason a case like the Zodiac is so unsettling is because we don’t have the answers that we want. We don’t have a killer to sit down and talk through the trauma-influenced mental process of his actions. In the end, we have two certainties: that the atrocious deeds happened and that somebody perpetrated them. We’ve got dead bodies and the terrible knowledge that a human being can do such things.
We are left staring at something huge. But it’s not an individual. If it were, we could just point at him and put him away for his dirty deeds. No, we are left staring at a faceless darkness that no psychology can analyze. You need somebody in order to do analysis, and we don’t have a scapegoat to dump the sin on and shoo from the camp. We’re left with the sin, tangible and putrid, the darkness that lies, not just individually in a single murderer, but in a fallen mankind at large. When we worry over not knowing who the Zodiac was, what we’re really worrying about is the fact that it could be pretty much anybody. Man apart from God is a terrifying thing.
Now excuse me while I go recite some Psalms and try to sleep.