Awakening the Zodiac

The deadliest serial killer in U.S. history... is back

20171 h 40 min

The story follows a down-on-their-luck couple who discovers a serial killer's film reels. They decide to take the law into their own hands, risking everything for the chance at a $100,000 reward. It isn't long until they find themselves in the killer's lethal cross-hairs.

Director Jonathan Wright
Runtime 1 h 40 min
Release Date 9 June 2017

Some 40 years after the unsolved Zodiac murders, a down-on-their-luck couple inadvertently purchases a storage unit at auction belonging to the Zodiac killer. Realizing he left a mountain of evidence in film reels in the storage unit, the Zodiac killer comes out of retirement to obtain the film and kill again. Rather than turn the film over to the authorities, the couple decide to try and use the evidence to uncover the identity of the Zodiac and claim the $100,000 reward for doing so. I have to admit I didn’t expect much from this film, and it nearly flew under my radar had it not been for a single trailer I saw in June, but wow, I’m glad I did.

First let me acknowledge how original and incredible of an idea this was – pulling the Zodiac out of retirement because he let payments slip on a storage unit, resulting in incriminating evidence being sold to some random couple. I mean, this guy’s been so careful for literally decades and something as stupid as missing some storage unit payments got him caught. What’s a killer to do but kill everyone involved with touching his storage unit – and I mean everyone. I did not expect that. Honestly, I expected this to be a cliche slasher with some nods to the Zodiac thrown in, not this original thriller. I did expect to see more scenes of the Zodiac actually killing people, but instead the dead bodies sort of just pop up occasionally and we’re left to assume it was the Zodiac.

Speaking of original, let me talk about the perspective in the movie. Throughout the film, the audience perspective was focused solely on the main couple, which was amazing from a suspense-building point of view. By that I mean there was obviously a police investigation into the recent murders, but we never get a glimpse into the police perspective, nor do we see anyone’s perspective outside of the main couple – with the exception of the killer and a fanatical pawn shop owner. This brilliant method of visual storytelling builds a sense of distrust for every other character in the movie, and leads you to believe that anyone could be the killer.

Now, let me get to the downside – the ending. The part of the movie in which almost every good horror movie seems to fail. Is it the rush from the studio to finish the movie? Is it the pressure from actors who don’t want to be on set anymore? Or is it simply lack of imagination? Whatever the reason, I hate to say this movie was no exception. The ending feels rushed and unfinished. After spending the entirety of the movie building tremendous amounts of suspense around the identity of the Zodiac killer, we are left with an anticlimactic reveal at the end – the killer is a random nobody they might have shown in one scene. That’s it? Literally the entire movie builds up several plausible suspects and we get some random guy? I think we deserve better than that. Once his identity’s revealed, the shroud of mystery is lifted and he wastes no more time hiding, but instead sits on a chair in the middle of the road with a rifle and shoots at cars as they try to run him over. The best way I can describe the ending is it felt like an ending for a different movie, and not the thrilling murder-mystery I’d been watching.

Disappointed and feeling let down, I was ready to accept the chaotic, action-packed ending, but then another twist came flying out of left field – apparently that guy wasn’t the Zodiac. This news came as a stinger at the end of the film when we see the couple sitting in their trailer in the middle of the night. The female lead is rambling robotic-ally, clearly shaken and traumatized by the whole event, when her husband goes outside to fix a flickering light bulb. The lights immediately go out and he vanishes, leaving his wife yelling for him into the darkness. Then, suddenly, we see the boot of the Zodiac step onto the grass in front of their trailer. Cut to black. Queue credits. Why did the guy with the rifle claim to be the Zodiac? And if he wasn’t the Zodiac, how did he have so much information about him? Why would he care at all about what the couple was doing if he wasn’t the killer they were looking for? Cliffhangers are often used in scary movies to insure a sense of uneasy suspense at the very end, but I saw this film as more of a thriller; a murder-mystery and I feel like it needed resolution. I can only conceive of ending the movie this way if they’re planning a sequel, which I highly doubt.

This movie is…

Even with the clumsy ending, the build-up is incredible and one hell of a ride.

Cheers and goodnight.