Awakening The Zodiac (2017)
Directed by: Jonathan Wright
Written by: Jennifer Archer, Jonathan Wright, Michael Horrigan
Starring: Kenneth Welsh, Leslie Bibb, Matt Craven, Nicholas Campbell, Shane West, Stephen McHattie
What is it all about?
A couple find a 40-year-old film reel that depicts the gruesome murders of two people by a serial killer who vanished. They quickly set out to solve the mystery and claim a reward but soon find themselves the target of the person they are hunting.
Any film that tries to do a Zodiac, will always be compared to David Fincher’s ultimate tale of one of America’s most notorious serial killers, even from the very first frame, we reminded of that 2007 flick, a couple sat in a car, making out, while another car approaches from afar. You could be forgiven for thinking that what you about to watch is just a cheap remake but when this thriller then flips into modern times, you know that director Jonathan Wright is trying something different to the most well known story.
Awakening The Zodiac is basically a moral tale that uses the phase “Curiosity killed the cat” to scare us. The Zodiac Killer, a person who terrorised America in the 70’s and was never caught, is a fascination among many armchair detectives who for years have tried to do what cops failed to do and that is discover who exactly the killer was. There are many theories, many books and like Jack The Ripper before him, we’ll probably never find out who this person was.
In this fictional tale that uses some real life evidence, a struggling young couple Mick (Shane West) and Zoe (Leslie Bibb) are desperate for money and move away from the trailer park life that engulfs them. To raise some quick cash, Mick buys old stuff in hope to find a hidden gem and when he invests in an old woman’s belongings, he just happens to come across some old film reels. With his Pawn-Shop owner/friend Harvey (Matt Craven) sitting next to them and having already seen what’s on the film, Mick and Zoe are stunned when they discover footage of what seems the Zodiac Killer, going about his work.
Most people in this situation would of course, phone the police or even a newspaper to sell their story, but when Harvey informs them that there is still a $100,000 reward for any evidence that would bring the Zodiac to justice, the trio do what no one else would and decide to investigate themselves. Now I am no expert in this award rules, but surely the footage on the film itself is enough to get them the money? I mean just hand it in and take the dosh and run? But then of course, that wouldn’t be much of a film so what we left is a tale of detective work and a mystery figure in the shadows who doesn’t want to be discovered.
As the three dig deeper, the killer who in real life must at least be over the age of 70 now (if he is alive) decides he wants his films back and innocent bystanders are sucked in as murders start to occur. Why? Because the film needs to appease those who want some blood and carnage, and mostly because the film would falter if there wasn’t a murder or two, because while the whole mystery of the Zodiac is enough to get people to want to watch this flick, the plot itself doesn’t have the conviction to just rely on tension and suspense.
By concentrating on that angle, the film could have worked as there is some enjoyment in watching the couple dig for clues, especially as the plot starts to spread around some red-herrings in what at first I hoped would be a kind of a Scream “guess the killer” kind of fun. Sadly this never quite reaches where you want it too especially as the eagle eyed viewers will probably guess after seeing the credits sequence at the beginning and then working it from there. Its a reason why a certain actor was left out at the cast list at the start of Se7en…….yes David Fincher really is haunting this picture.
But its not all that bad. The cast especially Shane and Leslie are really on form here. The film oozes above its cheap production with astute direction by Wright and at times there are enough moments to keep you more than entertained and while I found myself not once bored by it, the final shot had me wallowing in despair at the stupidity of such an ending (trust me guys it doesn’t make any sense), but at least after watching this, I had the overall urge to watch Fincher’s film again, so always a silver lining……..