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The Zodiac (1/10)

by Tony Medley

There’s been a lot on TV recently about sleep apnea and other sleeping disorders. Katie and Matt say on The Today Show that lots of people have trouble sleeping and, gosh, gee, that’s really bad. They talk about taking things to make you sleep and everyone seems to be really 100% opposed to taking anything to make or help you sleep. But Katie and Matt should see “The Zodiac,” because it is the greatest thing ever created for creating sleep.

This is a film “based on” (we’re hearing that a lot lately) the real Zodiac killer who roamed the San Francisco area in the late ‘60s, killing at will. The Zodiac killer was never found. Apparently he’s still out there.

There have been lots of films devoted to unsolved crimes, like L.A.’s Black Dahlia, who was cut in half and left in a vacant lot in 1947, and more to come. Jack the Ripper leads the pack. Lots of films about Jack. Lots of films about the murder of another Jack, Kennedy, too.

But what these films have in common with one another, and how they are dissimilar from “The Zodiac” is that they speculate about who could have done it. The “Whodunit” is one of the most popular of film genres, if not the most popular. But there are two parts to a whodunit. In addition to the dunit, you must have the “who.” If you have the “who” you have something interesting to contemplate. Could this have been the way it was? Could he/she have really dunit?

Unfortunately, director/writer (with Kelly Bulkley) Alexander Bulkley omits the “who” from this film. He has no clue whodunit and refuses to speculate. Worse, the tells the story from the point of view of a young detective, Matt Parish (Justin Chambers), and concentrates on how it affects his relationship with his wife, Laura (Robin Tunney) and son, Johnny (Rory Culkin). Frankly, who cares? While I’m at it, Bulkley makes Johnny a really creepy character, for no apparent reason. He even has weird music backing up his scenes.

The script needs lots of work. And the people who deliver the lines need as much work as the script. Particularly inept is William Mapother, who plays TV reporter Dale Coverling. His standups and commentaries look like they came from a high school stage.

It really takes a certain level of talent to try to make a scary movie out of a serial killer, showing most of his gruesome, cruel crimes, and end up with a real yawner.

March 2, 2006