The Zodiac

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Tom Reding

Plot: What’s it about?

Starting in 1968, a small town in northern California, Vallejo, fell victim to a ferocious serial killer known as “The Zodiac”. Based on a true story, The Zodiac follows the story of a young police detective (Justin Chambers) in his struggle to catch this lunatic, while still trying to maintain sanity in his family. The film starts off with the gruesome murder of a young male and female out on their first date in the towns “lovers lane” type area. There is no motive for the murder, no evidence, no witnesses, nothing, just two dead teenagers that did nothing wrong. Determined to track down the killer, Sgt. Matt Parish (Chambers) begins to investigate every possible avenue. After the initial first 2 murders on Dec. 20, 1968, the town was quiet for a while, people had thought that it was a one-time event, until 4th of July, 1969 when the Zodiac killer struck again. This time murdering one female, but failing at killing her boyfriend who was able to give the police a rough sketch of the killer. A month after the July 4th murders, The Zodiac killer starts playing with police. He starts sending letters recounting the events that took place on those two nights. He also sends cryptic messages written in some sort of code claiming that if the codes were not printed on the front page of the newspapers that he would kill again, but printed or not, it wouldn’t matter. As the movie progresses there are more and more murders and Sgt. Parish’s family begins to draw further and further apart. His son Johnny (Rory Culken) wants to follow in his dad’s footsteps and starts keeping track of all the newspaper clippings, articles, sketches, etc. Anything having to do with the investigation he is collecting, hoping to solve the riddle himself. His wife Laura (Robbin Tunney) is being driven further and further away from both her husband and her son because of the case. She can’t keep the house together anymore, she is constantly scared for her families well being, despite the fact that her husband says everything will be ok.

The film is not your typical serial killer movie. It does not focus on the serial killers mind and what he is going through, or what provokes him to do the killing. The story mainly focuses on the toll the investigation is taking on the families of those involved, the fear it is instilling in the small community. We watch a family go from being as happy as can be, to not even speaking in a matter of 96 minutes.

Video: How does it look?

Although the packaging states that it is “16×9 Anamorphic Full Screen”, don’t let that fool you, The Zodiac is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen. The video itself is presented very well. Being that the movie is set in the late 1960’s, there is a yellowish hue to the film which adds to the 1960’s feel. The colors are also very desaturated to give you the older look. These do not take away from the actual quality of the picture though. The blacks are very deep and look fantastic. I can only think of one night scene, where the moon and stars created some noise in the sky, but other than that, everything was pristine.

Audio: How does it sound?

Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, the sound on this DVD are excellent. There are a few spots where the dialogue seems to drown into the background noises, but for most of the film everything is crystal clear. I was very impressed with the use of the rear channels during certain tense scenes, everything seemed to flow around you and immerse you into the tension. The DVD also offers a Dolby Digital 2.0 track for those not able to utilize the 5.1 channel mix.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Starting out the extras on this DVD is a commentary track with the director, editor and writer of the film. It’s your pretty standard commentary track from these types of people, nothing too exciting packed into here. Follow that up with “Decoding The Zodiac: Zodiac Ciphers”. This is a very basic feature that shows you what the crypted messages The Zodiac killer wrote were, then you click a button and it decodes the messages. It is the same 3 ciphers that were included in the movie and 1 that has yet to be solved. “Behind The Zodiac” is a behind the scenes featurette that runs about 11 minutes long. It features each of the main characters in sort of an interview style where they talk a little about their respective characters and what they thought of the story. “Chronology of The Zodiac Killings” is a 3 page “journal” of killings and tauntings from The Zodiac killer from 1968 through 1978. It’s your basic, click next and read, extra. Kind of complimenting the “Chronology” are “The Zodiac Letters”. There are 3 letters that The Zodiac killer wrote to police in 1969 that you can check out here. Each one is read to you as you can see the letters, as was heard in the movie. And to round out the extras there are a few trailers. The theatrical trailer for “The Zodiac”, along with trailers for a few of Think Films other up and coming releases.

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