A review of “The Zodiac” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: **

Rating: R for gruesome images and language????

Run Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes



The Bay Area’s notorious Zodiac killer is loosely profiled in this semi-unsettling drama that leaves a niggling residue of fear in its wake.

Hunky Justin Chambers of “Grey’s Anatomy” fame stars as police Sergeant Matt Parish, a tightly-wound Vallejo cop who takes on the investigation of a vicious double-murder in December of 1968.

The murders rock the peaceful holiday serenity of this sleepy Northern California community. While law enforcement officials frantically search for clues the serial-killer continues to strike, typically targeting young lovers in the throes of passion.

Tensions escalate as the killer attempts contact with major news dailies. Both the Chronicle and Examiner receive coded letters from the Zodiac claiming that the mystery to his identity lies within.

For Parish targeting the Zodiac is a resolution bordering on obsession. The case turns all-consuming with its labyrinth of psychological profiles, interviews with survivors and bizarre ciphers coupled with astrological associations. Parish’s home life suffers as he withdraws into the sheltered isolation of shock, confusion and resolve.

A clean period look (Mustangs, Peter-Pan collars, etc.) melds with genuine historical footage and artsy, shock-value vignettes to showcase a fever pitch of expectation. Pregnant pauses add to the eerie aura but the third act is a bust, a trite plot-dragger with little in the way of narrative pay-off.

          Chambers does his best to connect the dots but can’t overcome the inherent flaws of a dumbed-down script. Parish’s descent into private hell screams tired theme.

Gruesome point-blank shootings and a genuine air of whodunit will appeal to terror fiends, as will the creepy climax. I’m pinning my hopes on David Fincher’s “Zodiac” starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey, Jr. (opening Fall 2006).