“I like killing people because it’s so much fun”
In the late 1960s to the early 1970s a serial killer who shined in the media with horrid mysterious and brutal events, shook Northern California with a sequence of unsolved Murders, uncanny public cryptic letters and games that were played with citizens and authorities. This is a film called “The Zodiac Killer” a true story with some detailed accuracy by David Fincher and in Comparison, with the book Zodiac: The shocking true story of the nation’s most bizarre mass murderer by Robert Graysmith. Where there were many suspects however no concrete evidence that would stick with this murderer. This movie manages to be genuine to records and captivate the target audience with the thriller.
It is often said that serial killers are constantly “sloppy.’ It is rare you come across a virtually cautious killer who is neat and always has a precise ritual when cleaning and not leaving evidence behind. He has officially killed at least five people around San Francisco Bay area and attempting many extra killings later. He also mailed over several cryptic letters with ciphers to police stations and newspapers that claimed killings and said to have his name in one of the ciphers if cracked. This Film investigates a killer who taunts mysteriously. The investigators involved now include cartoonist and main character Robert Graysmith played by Jake Gyllenhaal (bubble boy) and author of the book where the film is based on, detective Paul Avery played by Robert Downey Jr. (Iron man) and detective David Toschi, played by Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk). Tailed and pressured with fake leads and inconclusive findings, this is a contrast paper on the accuracy on this film.
Reporter slash self-made-amateur investigator Robert Graysmith. He becomes fascinated, obsessed, puzzled and committed to solving this case. He was so captivated by this case, his relationship with his wife became fragile. I think in my opinion, this case could capture you into solving weird puzzles but why would that jeopardize your family? In step with article (ChasingtheFrog.com, 2019) The Zodiac book took Robert ten years to finish, and it cost him his marriage and when asked if he regrets his long obsession, Graysmith responded, ‘it affected my life in one bad way because I got divorced.’
Further, this film can take a turn on entertainment vs accuracy, seeking to wrap our heads around what went on. The longer the film continues the more you want to learn the identity of this killer. However, how accurate are these killings? Making a movie I think can be frustrating especially taking pieces of real lifestyle to make a one and a half hour film. It becomes sometimes distorted but good directors can lure you in and make you look into what happened.
The movie starts us off on the evening of July 4th 1969 Vallejo, California. Darlene Ferrin and Mike Mageau take drive to a quiet location because it was too crowded at the time of location for Darlene’s liking. The couple parks their car after dark at the Blue Rock Springs Golf Course, considered to be a lover’s lane due to a clear viewing of oncoming cars, not stated in the film. Darlene is already paranoid for some reason looking around and spot’s someone in a car across the lot. Someone abruptly leaves and comes back only to park behind the couple. It is early in the scene but this seems to me that the killer knew of Darlene or Mike. When a dark figure mysteriously walks up to their car and shines a vibrant flashlight in Mageau face, he believed it was a police officer like anyone would, but it surely it was not. Mageau turned to see who it was, a 9-millimeter Luger shot into the car five times, injuring both Ferrin and Mageau.
It is said by newspaper.com “Police said the gunman opened the door of the car and fired several shots with a semi-automatic pistol, the shooter then got into his car and drove away.” The film did not give in detail if the shooter opened the door. Later after authorities arrived at the scene, an interesting issue happened. The cars handle was missing. Did the killer break it off so no one would identify him? Maybe, he had blood on the handle that he could not wipe away. This was surely passed in the film but why? Maybe because it led to another dead end. Mageau was able to survive this attack but Darlene later passed away at Kaiser Hospital. Mageau gave a description of the shooter to authorities which was never mentioned in the film, which I think is a very important part, seeing that no one can identify him.
Additionally, it came to my awareness that movies shorten stories and cut many details. When I first saw this, it looked like something out of an old classic horror film. The second most interesting part is the gunman at 12:40 PM simply called to report his crime, claiming to have killed ‘those kids last year. Goodbye’ in the creepiest way possible at the end of the call. This was the second killing connected to the zodiac but the first murder in the film. I took interest in this murder because the book details Darlene knowing who the killer was and stating there was a hot pursuit chase between the killer and Darlene on the way to this lover’s lane. They provide an awesome back tale on Darlene’s story and what lead to her killing. The couple did not just park there randomly, Darlene noticed a car following her, which led to a chase.
Subsequent is the Murder of Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard on Lake Berryessa in Napa, California on September 27, 1969. It’s scary to imagine, this can happen to anyone. A couple is scene relaxing along Lake Berryessa when Cecelia spots a man walking towards them and sees that he was holding a gun. He was wearing a black costume with a bullet bullseye on his chest like an executioner with the hood, which reminded me of the game Skyrim and their old timey executioner gear. What made him wear this costume? Other than not wanting to be recognized, I think it’s pretty silly and disturbing at the same time. The man verbalized that he wanted money and the car keys; he then asks Cecelia to tie Bryan up, but then being impatient comes around and does it himself while throwing Cecilia on the ground. Without any warning, he stabs Bryan continuously five times in the back. He then stabbed Cecelia nine times. Could you imagine the screams of agony she was enduring? According to the book, the killer stabbed Cecelia twenty-five times and may have carved a symbol on her back while knifing. Authorities could not give a concrete affirmation because it looked like she was butchered.
The taunting begins with dates on a car “12-20-68“,”7-4-69” and “9-27-69,” with a time of “6:30PM” also with the words “by knife.” This is what was written on the side of Bryan’s car door when police found it, the dates and locations of the previous attacks included with a circled logo of the zodiac. It seemed he has a compulsion to call his attacks because at 7:40 PM, the man called the Napa police department to report “a double murder.” The caller calls from a payphone and described where Bryan’s car was exactly and confessed, “I’m the one who did it.’ Bryan lived and Cecilia later passed away.
Meanwhile, according to zodiac by Mr. Graysmith the detectives found finger prints from the payphone the killer used, also not included in the film. There was evidence of footprints leading up to the crime and the car, the prints of the boots turned out to be government issued which leads to the killer having to do something with the military. The film does not go into detail of the evidence but portrays there’re no fits in any evidence that would link the killer to the murder. It is hard to believe that one man can be so cautious with fingerprints and leaving behind proof of identity. I believe some of these cases that were arisen to be of the zodiac, were only copy cats. At this point, the killer is essentially getting his thrills with the evidence being discovered, however with no linking him to it he continues to venture.
Next is the chilling third murder on October 11, 1960. A 28-year-old taxi driver Paul Stine decides to work that night and pick up a fare in San Francisco vicinity, it was just not his night. The suspect happened to fire one shot to the back of Paul’s head. Paul was pronounced dead immediately. There was no one at the crime of the scene when police arrived. A pair of soaked bloody gloves was retrieved from inside the car. There were three civilians who saw the man and suggested he was cleaning the taxi. The gloves that were found appeared to be too small for a presumably heavyset man. The Zodiac was careful as usual to remove all items that weren’t linked to the taxicab so leaving gloves behind seems odd for someone who seems to be exceedingly cautious. On the other hand, the book states the man pointed the gun to the Paul’s right check just in front of his right ear and fired. He said it had to be a quiet blow due to the pressure and in thought of the killer having a silencer.
In addition, on November 9th 1969, The Zodiac Killer stated in one of his letters (history; zodiac) “As of yet, I have left no fingerprints behind me contrary to what the police say, in my killings I wear transparent fingertip guards. All it is, is two coats of airplane cement coated on my fingertips — quite unnoticeable + very effective.’ So, it was very unlikely that the killer wore gloves, most likely staging a scene to throw off the police. Robert Graysmith described this glove in his book and says “Just under the dash, Toschi found a pair of dull-black leather gloves. They were soaked with blood but were too small for a man. Later he discovered that they belonged to a woman passenger from earlier in the day.” This murder was questioned as a robbery at first, but certain clues were connected to the zodiac. Either way once; again, a lifeless case for detectives.
In the real-life case, there was sufficient evidence pointing to a man called Arthur Leigh Allen, clues that were connecting to Arthur that included a typewriter he owned with a specific brand found in his home, he also wore a zodiac brand watch that detectives connected to the killer because of its symbol claiming to be the zodiac also having the same shoe size as the zodiac. He has many other accusations including greater personal evidence of handwriting analysis which was claimed inconclusively which of Arthur and concluded that he was not the murderer. In the Film detective David interviews Leigh only once, I did not come across other allegations that he was questioned many times in the real case which certainly baffles me. Arthur dies at 58 in 1992. The case went cold and as far as we know there has not been any more killings connect to the zodiac killer.
Further, I really enjoyed this film and its accuracy. It gave me a rather interesting examination of how detectives work on finding these ill people and how it feels to think that the killer is still among us. This film has been traditionally accurate for the most part. Just lacks a lot of details especially after reading the book and watching the film. Lastly there were certainly some things that connected Arthur to the killings and made him a viable Zodiac Killer suspect, but you can’t catch a killer without evidence. In a book and film about Mr. Leigh was the most occurring suspect of the zodiac killer. The film suggestion that he basically got away with his crimes. Both Film and movie gave accurate details on this case but more so then the other. In my opinion, the killer known as the zodiac could have been several individual and not just one man.
- ‘Kathleen Johns Letter.’ Zodiackiller.com. N.p., 2019. Web.
- ‘The Zodiac Killer: A Timeline.’ HISTORY. N.p., 2019. Web. 4 Mar. 2019.
- ‘TZMC-Kathleen Johns Police Reports.’ Zodiackillerthemansonconnection.com. 2019.
- ‘Zodiac Movie vs. Zodiac Killer True Story – Real Robert Graysmith.’ ChasingtheFrog.com. N.P., 2019.
- “Newspaper.com “article Darlene Ferrin and Mike Mageau”