Some horror doesn’t need to be gory. It doesn’t need to be violent, nor does it have to be supernatural.
Sometimes the biggest scares of all are the ones that come from real life.
Such was the case with the Zodiac killer, who terrorized the Bay Area back in the late 60’s and early 70’s, never to be captured.
The story of the Zodiac became an American legend, and in 2007, it also became one of director David Fincher’s greatest films.
Zodiac, Fincher’s nearly 3 hour epic (the director’s cut is what’s available on Blu-ray) is the story of the men looking to capture the Zodiac killer – writer Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr), cartoonist Richard Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) and cops Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards). Their stories weave in and out over the span of first weeks, then months and even years, as the serial killer captures the imagination of a nation before fading away, unsolved.
The performances in Zodiac are all outstanding – each character has their own motives for capturing the killer, and none of them are stock roles. I remember seeing the movie with the Queen in the theater back in 2007 and was blown away from the get-go. The soundtrack utilizes music from the various eras perfectly (I’m pretty sure you’ll never listen to Donovan’s Hurdy Gurdy Man the same way after the film’s opening scene), but it’s the feeling of unease that permeates the film that makes me rate it so highly. Without much blood, Fincher manages to bring horror to the serene, beautiful places.
Now consider the simple fact that the man who perpetrated that moment was never caught. That he may still be out there. Likely not, as the various suspects have either passed on are extremely aged at this point in time. But hundreds of thousands of people lived their lives for a moment in time, fearful of man without a real name. Or a face.
That is horror.