DIRECTOR: Jonathan Wright
When a down-on-their-luck couple goes and purchases the contents of an old storage shed. They get more than they bargained for when they uncover several film reels of the Zodiac Killer committing his murders. Instead of going to the police, they begin to investigate the films to try and prove if they are authentic and real. As the two delve deeper into the films, they soon discover that the Zodiac may actually be alive, well and still murdering people.
Growing up, I had always been extremely fascinated with serial killers and crime. I've always wanted to study them. I think Silence Of The Lambs was a big part of that. So whenever a movie gets a release that details the crimes of a real-life serial killer. I will probably always seek them out due to my love of true crime. When I had come across Awakening The Zodiac, I immediately queued the movie up and sat down to watch it. I had no idea what to expect.
There have been several movies that are based on the Zodiac killer and all to varying degrees of success. We've had what some would consider David Fincher's masterpiece 'Zodiac'. A movie that has one of the greatest taglines ever used for a film and that is 'There's more than one way to lose your life to a killer'. Then you have bottom of the barrel trash like Ulli Lommel's Zodiac Killer. A filmmaker who made a slew of real-life serial killer films in the naughties that just desecrated the cases they were based on.
I went into Awakening The Zodiac and thought I'd be seeing something more in line with Ulli Lommel's Zodiac than Fincher's take on the case. I was pleasantly surprised and somewhat shocked when I actually came out of this one and enjoyed it. This is a pretty interesting and clever take on the Zodiac killer case. Instead of doing another retread of the original case, this details his life after and adds a sort of snuff element to it. I thought that was a nice touch.
What I think the movie does successfully is it actually makes the case creepy. While this couple and their friend delve deeper into whether or not these film reels are real or not, I thought the film builds some decent suspense. It's not scary by any means or has a solid amount of jump scares but I felt that it successfully built some decent tension and suspense. A scene that takes place in a library basement was effective as were several scenes where characters are alone in their trailer that worked well.
Awakening The Zodiac was never once boring. This film is paced very well. The movie opens with one of the murders from the original case, jumps straight into the present day and presents us with our characters discovering the film reels. There are no forty minute backstories on the Zodiac killer, this gets right to the current story and gives us a clever take on the possibility of the killer who evaded capture who may still be roaming around and killing people. I really thought that the dynamic of these small-town, trailer-park living characters becoming almost sleuths was a nice touch.
Where this movie stumbles a bit is with the writing. I thought that this had a lot of silly character decisions. For Leslie Bibb who plays Zoe, she spends most of the film being the voice of reason. She is the only one who sees how dangerous it is to keep investigating the Zodiac case when things start getting creepy but is the first to jump in a car and chase the killer down to a creepy old mill while being all alone. This just seemed like such an eye-roll sort of moment for a character who has spent a lot of time being the most intelligent of the bunch.
The final ten minutes or so is also a tad bit preposterous. I think the ending will be the thing that either makes or breaks this movie for a lot of people. While I find the reveal to be a tab bit silly, I thought everything leading up to the third act is pretty enjoyable. The final ten minutes does wield some pretty impressive cinematography. A scene where the camera pulls back through a van's open windows and around the back of the van to reveal the killer was a clever setup that I thought showed some promise from the director.
Lastly, the acting in Awakening The Zodiac is solid. I had no idea that the film starred Shane West and Leslie Bibb. Two actors who have their fair share of work that I enjoy, I was happy with their performances here as the hillbilly, trailer park couple. I thought that they had a lot of chemistry and I actually cared for the two characters. Also, Matt Craven rounds out the supporting cast, and I enjoyed his role in the movie. I enjoyed his character's descent into obsession as he tries to find out who the Zodiac killer is and he does the role justice.
DEATH TOLL: 6
BLOOD AND GORE:
- Two teenagers are shot to death.
- A body is found covered in blood and hog-tied.
- An old man is found with his throat slashed.
- A man is stabbed in the back with a pitchfork.
- A man is shot in the throat.
- The Zodiac Killer is stabbed in the leg.
- A woman has her throat cut.
- A man is shot in the stomach.
- A man is smacked in the face with a sniper rifle.
Awakening The Zodiac does away with a simple and predictable retread of the Zodiac case and gives us something unique and provides us with a fun twist on what would happen if you discovered the home movies of the Zodiac killer, who is now out there filming his murders. The fact that this story is the first time that this has been done is mind-boggling. That alone scores points for originality. While the film contains some silly character decisions and a pretty lame killer reveal. The film is still a fun little take on Zodiac. Worth a watch if you enjoy serial killer flicks.