David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007), written by producer James Vanderbilt and adapted from the true crime works of Robert Graysmith, remains one of the most respected films of the early 21st century. As the second film featuring a serial killer (and the first based on fact) by Fincher, Zodiac remains a standout in a varied but stylistically unified career. It similarly stands out among a new wave of crime cinema in the early 2000s, including the modern classics Inside Man, Michael Clayton, and Academy Award winner No Country for Old Men. While commonly described as a serial killer film, Zodiac also hybridizes the policier genre and the investigative reporter film. And yet, scholarship has largely ignored the film.
This collection, edited by Matthew Sorrento and David Ryan, is the first book-length study dedicated to the film. Section One focuses on early influences, such as serial and spree killer films of the 1960s and 70s and how their treatments helped to shape Fincher’s film. The second section analyses the film’s unique treatment of narrative with studies of rhetoric onscreen, intertextuality, and gender. The book closes with a section on media studies, including chapters focusing on game theory, data and hegemony, the Zodiac’s treatment in music, and the use of sound in cinema. By offering new avenues in Zodiac studies and continuing a few established ones, this book will interest scholars of cinema and true crime along with fans and enthusiasts in these areas.
Matthew Sorrento teaches film studies at Rutgers University-Camden.
David Ryan is academic director and faculty chair of the Master of Arts of Professional Communication program at the University of San Francisco.
Foreword: Zodiac, the American Murderer, and the End of Reason
By Christopher Sharrett
Introduction: The Future of the “Last Serial Killer Movie”
By Matthew Sorrento
SECTION ONE: BEFORE FINCHER
1: Framing the “Mass” Killer: Horror and Spatiality in Peter Bogdanovich’s Targets (1968)
2: Fear and Exploiting in the Age of Aquarius: Early Representations of the Zodiac Killer in 1970s Film and Television
By Christopher Weedman
3: Hacked to Pisces: An Interview with Tom Hanson on The Zodiac Killer (1971)
By Rod Lott
SECTION TWO: ZODIAC AND NARRATIVE
4: Zodiac and the Melding Criminal Minds of David Fincher
By Jeremy Carr
5: Subverting the Investigator as Hero: Masculinity and Failure in David Fincher’s Zodiac
By Theresa Rodewald
6: Performing the Zodiac: Piffle, Paradox, and Self-Promotion
By Daniel R. Frederick
7: Allegories of Obsession: David Fincher’s Zodiac and Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Black Cat (1934)
By George Toles
SECTION THREE: ZODIAC AND MEDIA
8: The Dantesque Desires of David Fincher’s Zodiac
By Martin Kevorkian
9: The Zodiac Strikes a Blue Chord: Evoking Art-Horror in Music
By Andrew M. Winters
10: Algorithmic Anxiety: Data Hegemony and Mediated Murder in David Fincher’s Zodiac
By Jake Rutkowski
11: Gaming the Ripper Coast: Mapping the Radicalized Acts of the Zodiac Killer
By David Ryan
12: The Killers Speak: the Sound of Violence in David Fincher’s Zodiac and Mindhunter (2017-2019)
By Deborah L. Jaramillo
This is an important study in regards to David Fincher, Zodiac, and the true crime story upon which it is based. The collection exposes and examines the topics, and our fascination with them, in surprising ways.
Though arguably the most interesting serial-killer film since Hitchcock's Psycho, David Fincher's Zodiac has not yet received as much high-level critical analysis as it deserves. This exciting new anthology goes a long way toward remedying the deficiency. Written from a variety of perspectives and with a wide range of concerns, this volume is especially strong in helping us to understand the film in its various cultural and historical contexts and with regard to its complex narrative strategies.