Zodiac

Zodiac ★★★★★

Circumstantial evidence: the movie!

I vowed not to revisit this film anytime soon. It all started with that damn Hurdy Gurdy Song shuffled on my playlist. And then I did some reflection, realizing that I had initially watched Zodiac like it was homework to be done with, rather than taking it on it's own terms. So against my better judgment, I hit rewatch. Oh boy, it's like the movie morphed into something else and wrecked me!

Zodiac is a film that gets scarier the more you watch it. Like you know the picnic murder scene is coming, you know the woman with her baby in her car is coming, you know that basement scene with Roger Rabbit is coming.....and it's still bloody scary.

Sam the creepy voice on the TV call-in show stood out more to me this time around: his sickly breathing, the pauses before the jolts of static, the "THAT WAS MY HEADACHE", Brian Cox looking like he's conversing with a demon....I've seen this fuckin movie before and I already know it's a red herring by a prank caller.....and yet it tightened a knot of dread in my stomach the size of a grapefruit!


I think I have discovered why and how I'm still scared watching this again, even though the elusive killer is basically absent by the second half. It is because Zodiac feels like a sentient rubik's cube that changes colour even when you've solved it. It's a strange film that is somehow 10 steps ahead of you just as you've arrived at something.

People throw up the word "Hitchcockian" a lot, thinking that it means split diopte shots or crash zooms or whatever camera tricks you can think of. But "Hitchcockian" primarily means psychological tension. Zodiac's tension is not just in solving the crime (anyone who doesn't live under a rock knows this is still an open case), the tension is in how every piece of the enormous evidence presented fucks with your brain until you yourself are just begging for someone, ANYONE, to be the killer. You'll settle for any circumstantial evidence to put your unease at rest.

The main characters obsession with finding out the killer is in itself scary coz we too want to know. Is it any wonder that true crime media has been on the rise in recent years? A suspect may tick all the clues we're searching for, and yet we press on to see where they may take us. Danger may be just around the corner, but curiosity to a fault overrides the intuition that something bad may happen.

No one can turn passion into obsession like Fincher does. It is in the very pathology of a serial killer to be passionate about getting their "details" right, so naturally you need a filmmaker passionate about getting details right to tell this story. Fincher painstakingly recreates an unsolved case from the 70s; one so huge that it envelopes the characters, city and by extension the audience. Fincher has everyone at the palm of his hands the entire time, carefully doling out morsels of information, guiding and misguiding us using pacing and editing and sound design. The interrogation scene with Arthur Leigh Allen is a masterclass in control; an encapsulation of the director's dominance over us.

If Se7en was a dour meditation on evil and apathy, Zodiac is slow burn meditation on the destructive sinkhole of obsession. One of the best movies about the Bay Area. I still think its overlong, I still believe Memories of Murder to be a slightly superior investigative procedural of an actual serial killer, I still have stronger PTSD from Se7en. But if someone said this was their favourite Fincher masterpiece, I might not agree, but I'd understand.

5 stars for just being weirdly blown away and terrified by something I've already seen but dismissed. I "get" it now!

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