Serial Killers in Film

Zodiac Killer: Analysis

Zodiac (2007)

This film was wildly accurate when portraying the events that took place over the few years that the Zodiac killer ravaged San Francisco. The length of time that the crimes took place was short compared to the amount of time the police spent looking into the crimes. The provided timeline of helps keep the audience on track, especially when a significant amount of time as passed between events. The film goes through the events chronologically which helps with the organization of the film.

Once the police stumble on to a viable suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen, the film begins to complicate. The first time we hear of him is through a different source. Donald Cheney reported him and told the detectives a lot of information which caused the police to read more into him. The first time we see Allen, he speaks to the two detectives from the SFPD and Jack Mulanax from Vallejo PD. Allen states that he was at Lake Berryessa on the day of the attack, that he had knives in his possession that day, that his neighbor could vouge for him coming home but then he died right after, he was wearing a Zodiac wristwatch. he also said that his teachers had tried to make him right handed in school, but he couldn’t do it. He also said that The Most Dangerous Game was his favorite book in high school.

During this meeting, it became clear that this man was a person of interest. Throughout the rest of the film, the detectives struggle to connect Allen to the murders and all the evidence is circumstantial which gives them no chance at making the case stick. This meeting was fairly accurate and gives the audience the idea that Allen is the killer, no argument. There is a small hint of doubt can be placed in the audience with no matches in the DNA nor the handwriting but the attention to detail given to this meeting and the particular choice of wording used by both Allen and the detectives.

For a while, Robert Graysmith follows another lead on a man named Rick Marshall. A movie poster supposedly drawn by Marshall leads him to meeting a friend of Marshall’s, Bob Vaughn. When Graysmith reveals the poster and the similarities in the handwriting, Vaughn reveals that he drew the posters which creates a more intense moment in the film. This discovery adds a level of questioning to the film to make the audience really think about who the killer is and could be. It also brings in a level of ambiguity to the handwriting exam and its validity.

At the end of the film, Graysmith and Toschi sit down to discuss Graysmith’s findings. Quickly, Graysmith lays out a timeline of Allen’s life compared to the letter and the murders from the police side. Graysmith shows how the letters come until the police go to visit Allen at his work. Then the letters stop, how he immediately cleans out his trailer and moves two days later, how the letters start again after a few years. Graysmith fills in the next 4-year gap with how Allen went to jail. Toschi is stunned and asks one final question: proving that Darleen Ferin knew the Zodiac. Graysmith, using the salt and pepper shakers on the table, shows the pancake house Darleen worked in is less than 50 yards from where Allen lived at the same time. This is the last nail in the coffin of Allen being the Zodiac. This last-ditch effort by Graysmith gives the audience all of the information the police have to bring forward Allen as the Zodiac. 
The last thing pictured in the film is in 1991, Michael Mageau is located and brought in for questioning, 22 years after the incident. Mageau looks at a set of photos and identifies Allen as the man who shot him. With that, the film ends. There are some final parting words on what happened to those involved in this investigation and how everything ended. Unfortunately, the Zodiac Killer was never caught. 

San Franpsycho (2006)

This film was loosely adapted to the Zodiac story line, and I mean loosely. The basic similarities are there, the letters, the way the killer follows the news, the location. Other than these basics, this film is nothing like the Zodiac killings. The film was poorly made and a complete waste of time. The letters were given a religious affiliation and a religious meaning to justify the killings. The profile of the people this killer is looking for to kill also has a religious aspect, meaning he is killing those who are doing things against the bible (i.e. adultery, homosexuality, prostitution, etc.).

The reporter in this film was not of the brightest nature either. She clearly put her family in danger when she found out this killer was infatuated with her. She should not have been visiting her mother for dinner or doing anything with her boyfriend while this man was stalking her. This is a simple overlook by the writers. In any other movie with a similar story line, the person in danger is put under some form of house arrest or taken to a safe house.
This killer was another story. The killer here was not as methodical as the Zodiac. He killed on a whim. He had a crazed persona and was driven by a higher kind of power. He was always stalking the victims for a long time before killing them. The direction of these scenes was unrealistic. The portrayal of the empty streets and lonely subway is not a legitimate representation of an evening in San Francisco. And there is no way that a sane person wouldn’t notice a weird man following them home for such a lengthy amount of time.
All and all, unless you knew the whole story of the Zodiac and knew the ins and outs of the case, then maybe you would be able to see the connection. Otherwise this movie was nothing like the actual case. It was horribly made and nothing about this movie was good. 10 out of 10 would NOT recommend. 

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