When I launched my mini-reviews page, the intention was for me to re-upload the original reviews from my old freewebs website, although I started discussing other movies as well. Over time, the mini-reviews section has become bloated and unwieldy, so I’ve decided to archive my original works as a separate entity. They will be divided between martial arts and horror, with the ‘mini-reviews’ being dedicated to new critiques. If you remember my ancient writings, I went through a lot of bizarre phases. My earliest works were crude and they eventually turned derivative of other online critics, before I adopted a ‘longer is better’ trend. Everything posted here will be an abridged, polished version of my original writing. I might re-watch some of my original subjects and have entirely different thoughts. I’m chronically embarrassed by all of my old contributions to film criticism, so I don’t count a lot of these as ‘official reviews’ anymore.
Hence, the title-
“THE CORPSES OF DEAD REVIEWS: HORROR”
Try not to be morbid and gawk!
AKIRA KUROSAWA’S DREAMS (1990)
One of the final films by legendary director Akira Kurosawa, this is a collection of short stories, apparently dreams experienced by Kurosawa himself. Those poor souls who endure my writings will notice that “Dreams” is not the kind of movie that I’d usually review, even though Kurosawa was mostly famous for his Samurai features- such as “Yojimbo” and “Seven Samurai”. This is an arthouse feature, neither belonging in the martial arts or horror genres, but when I initially reviewed the movie, I was critiquing…everything I wanted to critique because I had too much time on my hands. At one point, you could find the likes of “Once Upon a Time in America” and “Once Upon a Time in the West” in my martial arts index, because where else could I put them at the time? This is a re-review, which is why it’s here in the first place. Moving on to the subject- “Dreams” is not my kind of movie, even though its self indulgence is visually striking and unique. Each short is too…eh, short…to properly review, so don’t expect any individual ratings or deep analysis’s.
Sunshine Through the Rain: A boy wanders into a magical forest, where he witnesses a ceremony being conducted by kitsune (mythical foxes). This story does closely resemble a childs’ dream (or nightmare) and boasts incredibly colorful, eye popping imagery. However, it puts the S, L, O and W in ‘Slow’. In many ways, this sets the tone and will test your capacity to remain awake throughout the duration of this film.
The Peach Orchard: Spirits of a destroyed Peach Orchard confronts a boy whose family chopped down their tree. Once again, visually appealing, but the dance ceremony goes on way too long. I found the pacing to be tedious, although I also am conceding that I’m not the target audience for this kind of filmmaking.
The Blizzard: Out of all the stories, this one pissed me off the most. It’s about a group of mountain men trying to get to their camp in a blizzard. While the atmosphere is unnervingly chilling at points, there is just too much walking as the cast struggles against the snow, which almost immediately becomes monotonous. I had to fight sleep for this one. I don’t remember who won.
The Tunnel: A Japanese officer returns home after World War 2, only to be confronted by the soldiers of his dead platoon. Ishiro Honda (“Godzilla”) had a hand in directing this one, although it’s unclear whether he helmed the entire short or merely served as a co-director. I thought this was a very unnerving experience, thanks to the spooky sound design and creepy ghosts (that dog is terrifying!). This is the first ‘nightmare’ portion of the film.
Crows: “Dreams” has been a strange combination of ‘fascinating’ and ‘boring’, but “Crows” alone makes the entire feature worth watching. A man (who resembles Kurosawa) finds himself inside a painting of Vincent Van Gough. This short is BREATHTAKING, with the scenery resembling a live action painting. The gorgeous and haunting visuals carry “Crows“, but unlike its predecessors, they never grow stale. This is also the only story that isn’t bloated with excessive dialogue or mundane actions (like walking), so the slow burn pacing actually enhanced the experience for me. Martin Scorsese cameos as van Gough.
- Mount Fuji in Red: The second nightmare in the film is about four characters experiencing the apocalyptic aftermath of a nuclear meltdown. This one appears to be shorter than the other segments and even though it’s very talky, it never bored me. I liked how Kurosawa made the eye popping colors look sinister and foreboding, which gave it a strangely surreal atmosphere.
The Weeping Demon: A man finds himself wandering in a post-apocalyptic landscape, where he encounters a tormented demon- who reveals that a nuclear holocaust is responsible for the world ending. The third nightmare sequence has moody atmosphere, but suffers from rambling dialogue and uneven pacing.
Village of the Watermills: Now this was a nice way to end the movie. The same man stumbles upon a beautiful village, which has chosen spiritual health over convenience. It’s very uplifting, poetic and beautiful. Despite being talky, it moved at the right pace and made a powerful emotion connection with me. I liked how “Dreams” ended on a positive note, in contrast to the often dreary, bleak and chaotic previous shorts. It made me a lot happier as the film ended.
“Dreams” was clearly a very personal project for Kurosawa and one has to wonder what his mental and emotional state was throughout production, as he has no interest in developing a cohesive narrative or following the basic rules of cinema. In fact, one can argue that this is such an intimate insight into the director that the movie becomes alienating, not really designed for anyone else. Considering that Kurosawa was entering the final chapter of his life, I think Kurosawa just wanted to do what he wanted and not what he thought other people would want- and he had certainly earned this right. Each short is interesting because you’re getting a glimpse into the mind of a genius, even if us plebians aren’t likely going to understand it. The visuals are amazing and I loved the emphasis on color, mood and spectacle, but I will admit to getting bored…a lot…The philosophical ramblings and scenes of excessive walking got old pretty quickly. This is the type of movie that I’m glad to have experienced, but I don’t think I’ll want to experience it again. I respect “Dreams”, even if I’m not sure I like it. It’s not for everyone, although I think arthouse enthusiasts and passionate cinephiles should check it out.Rating: 3/4
This is not a horror or a thriller title, but for some absurd reason I reviewed it, so it’s here.
Takashi Miike’s surreal, sci-fi romance is about a teenage girl (Hiroko Shimabukuro), whose mind is uploaded into her boyfriends’ laptop after she dies in a car accident. This movie was just…weird, even by Takashi Miike’s standards. Miike might be the only filmmaker who can lure me into genres that I’d usually avoid like the AIDS, because why else would I spend any time on this fluffy, poorly received chick flick? But I love watching the intense mating sessions between his imaginative style and exceptional skill, regardless of whether he’s doing grotesque horror or childrens’ drama. Unfortunately, “Andromedia” tends to be among the more overlooked entry in Miike’s catalog, generally being regarded as one of his lesser works. I actually am one of the few people who liked this movie, even though I also understand that I am in the minority.
Takashi Miike is no stranger to working with abstract and often hole ridden scripts, but “Andromedia” takes this to alienating levels. The plot makes little sense, the villains’ motives are never really explained and there were a lot of unanswered questions. The most notorious scene surrounds a random J-pop performance, because apparently the studio wanted to promote the band. Miike probably wasn’t thrilled with this production, because he doesn’t even try to weave this into the narrative. It just comes and goes, without any build-up or pay-off. On the other hand, I made an emotional connection to the protagonists, so cared about them and their plights. The cinematography is really good and Miike’s visual style kept everything more exciting. I also thought the pace was surprisingly swift, which helped make things go down more smoothly. Finally, this was pretty f@cking weird…and that is what makes Takashi Miike one of my personal favorite directors. I can’t call “Andromedia” a good movie, but it did entertain me.Rating: 2.5/4
DON’T LOOK NOW (1973)
A grieving couple (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) move to Venice, where they encounter a pair of psychics, who warn them that their deceased daughter is trying to warn them about…something…”Don’t Look Now” is great, but it is one of those kinds of movies where you need to know that the methodical pacing and the focus more on story than horror. Most of the screen-time is dedicated to the characters and their relationships, which is compelling because the cast is in top form. But the director slowly weaves suspense into the narrative, which spreads until the movie becomes terrifying. I loved how beautiful Venice looked during the daytime, but how those same locations turn sinister at night. The director uses techniques like slow motion and crash zooms to add style and tension, while his narrative devices were inspired and clever. I spent the majority of the running-time being unsure where the story would go next and being unpredictable is an excellent way of keeping the audience on edge. “Don’t Look Now” is one of those genre efforts that transcends the genre and can be enjoyed by anyone, but it won’t necessarily be enjoyed by everyone. This is the same kind of slow burn horror that “The Wicker Man” and “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death” were, so you have to ask yourself if those films are in line with your personal tastes. RIP director Nicolas Roeg (1928-2018).Rating: 4/4
DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1941)
Dr. Jekyll (Spencer Tracy) is working on a potion that will isolate his ‘evil’ side, but it backfires and gives a personality to his darker impulses instead, known as ‘Mr. Hyde’. This is my favorite retelling of the classic literature, as it boasts a great cast, all of whom turn in excellent performances. Spencer Tracy in particular is so thoroughly likable as the good doctor, but his transformation into Hyde is TERRIFYING. His corruption of Ivy (Ingrid Bergman) is tragic to behold and the script explores some very compelling themes, such as how we greatly underestimate evil and its influence on us. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was shot in a studio, but they do a phenomenal job at recreating London, whilst giving it some stylistic additions to enhance the moodiness of the setting. The eerie, grim, black and white cinematography is incredibly atmospheric, growing harsher as Jekyll gradually descends into madness. Despite this being directed by Victor Fleming (“Gone with the Wind“, “The Wizard of Oz“) and having a popular cast, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” wasn’t very well received upon its release, but its reputation has grown with time.Rating: 3.5/4
Ugh, describing the plot of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” isn’t going to be easy. In the distant future, there is a technology that allows humanity to explore their own dreams. Cobb ( Leonardo DiCaprio) utilizes this to enter peoples minds and steal their ideas. But now he’s tasked with planting an idea, which is theoretically impossible. His team assembles to perform the ultimate reverse-heist, but can they survive the perilous waters of the dream world? I remember viewers complaining that “Inception” was confusing, but I had no difficulty keeping up with it and I suspect that people were only lost because they’re accustomed to turning off their brains for big budgeted blockbusters. Yes, the movie is pretty complex and a simple bathroom break can throw you off your game because every scene is pivotal to the following scene. I found the content of its script to be very interesting, with plenty of new, intriguing concepts that are balanced with an emotional core and the visual spectacle. I was attached to these characters and their emotional journeys, while my mind was getting a good workout with the twists and turns.The special effects are not only state-of-the-art, they’re also very imaginative and Nolan delivers lots of breathtaking, memorable visuals. Yet I always appreciated how the the effects always meant something in regards to the story or a characters state of mind and didn’t lose themselves to the absurd. “Inception” is a lot more grounded than “Paprika“, which meant my attention was on the story. The final result was one of Nolan’s best films, one of the elites of 2010 and one of my personal favorite blockbusters.Rating: 4/4
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009)
In Nazi-occupied France during WW2, Hitler decides to attend a movie premiere and just about everyone wants to kill him. This includes a group of vicious American soldiers, a vengeful Jew, a movie critic, and a German actress…Seriously, only Tarantino can make this up…”Ingourious Basterds” is a spaghetti western in style, but a World War 2 thriller in setting, something else only Tarantino could pull off. I love this film because the characters are just as vibrant and memorable as the visual style, with every shot, action, reaction and line of dialogue capturing my interest thoroughly. The cast is exceptional, each actor and actress being able to stand out in a film where everyone stands out. Brad Pitt is having a blast and even Eli Roth does pretty damn good, but Christoph Waltz was easily the best and has become the breakout star of the movie. Yet they all owe a lot to Tarantino’s prose. The editing and cinematography are exceptional, even by Tarantino movie standards and Tarantino uses the Ennio Morricone tracks effectively. I’ve seen a lot of people imitate Sergio Leone, but Tarantino is able to capture the spirit of Leone’s work and fuse it with his own eccentric style. Tarantino masterfully builds up the suspense as well, with the films’ greatest scenes being the slower paced, terse interactions that have high stakes. They build up to an exciting climax, but it’s the build up which left an impact on me. “Inglourious Basterds” is thoroughly entertaining and I find it strange that Tarantino’s actual westerns, “Django Unchained” and “Hateful Eight”, have less of a spaghetti western atmosphere than this one did.Rating: 4/4
THE INVASION (2007)
A Space Shuttle is destroyed upon re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, spreading an alien contagion throughout the planet. If infected, the human body will be taken over by this mysterious entity once they fall asleep. A psychiatrist (Nicolle Kidman) believes her son is immune and can possibly save the human race. “The Invasion” is the fourth adaptation of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, but it’s about as bland as its updated name. I understand why they did this, as there is something cheesy about the presentation of the previous films (and title) and ‘grounded in reality’ was the favored theme of 2007, but the charm found in its predecessors was lost in the process. Furthermore, as corny as the previous adaptations occasionally were, they were much more experimental and daring than this remake was (which plays it very safely). Throughout my viewing experience, I kept thinking how it seemed like the director had filmed a slow burn, psychological thriller, but the studios forcefully converted it into a more action oriented story. I was correct and the segments- which are competent on their own- don’t work very well together. You can tell the difference between the original content and the reshoots based on the style and context. The claustrophobic visuals don’t mesh with the hyper-kinetic editing, which seems like a desperate attempt to make the events more exciting. Interesting Note: The Wachowski’s apparently helped out with the new footage.
“The Invasion” really wants to be taken seriously, with its ‘deep, philosophical discussions’, but I just couldn’t bring myself to engage with the movie on an intellectual level. The dialogue lacked subtlety, so instead of making its audience ponder ‘what it is to be human‘, the movie is just telling you what you’re supposed to think. The ambiguity of the resolution lacks any weight, because it’s strongly implied that the aliens are just as violent natured as humans and yet no one brings this up. A cooler twist would’ve been the aliens realizing that humanity has taken THEM over- corrupting their nature, which would’ve given the ending more resonance. But “The Invasion”, for all of its scientific jargon, relies too much on cliches and stupid writing. The infected act too robotic for anyone to be fooled by them, when this concept would be so much scarier if you truly did not know who to trust. The aliens only seem to get the advantage whenever a human does something baffling stupid, such as an expert carelessly handling potentially contaminated debris with his BARE HANDS. I found it especially funny how our protagonists were apparently the LAST PEOPLE IN THE CITY who figured out they were overrun. Hell, everyone else has apparently caught onto the aliens’ habits and how to fool them, so why wouldn’t the story focus on the more savvy minor characters? Finally, if you want to be taken seriously, maybe tone down the campy vomiting segments? I snickered whenever they spewed out their green sludge, which feels so out of place against the remainder of the flick. The CGI also didn’t quite work for me either, not because it’s bad, but because it’s too flashy compared to the rest of the film. “The Invasion” is just kind of average, featuring an impressive cast who deliver mostly uninvolving performances (Daniel Craig looks like he’s regretting this decision, maybe because he was just cast as Bond?). It moves pretty quickly and there were a few effective moments, but it’s nowhere near as good as it thinks it is.Rating: 2/4
KILL BABY…KILL! (1966)
Mario Bava’s tale of a Carpathian village being terrorized by a mysterious, supernatural entity was a box office bomb upon release…but would go on to be his most acclaimed and influential feature, serving as an inspiration for the likes of Scorsese, Lynch, Argento and even Fellini. “Kill Baby…Kill!” is really about the courtship between Gothic atmosphere and psychedelic imagery, as the former tries to seduce the latter with the classics (ominous church bells, eerie fog, hostile villagers, moody architecture). Gothic has game, but the psychedelic imagery is more interested in eye popping colors, surreal scenarios and hallucinogenic uses of the camera. Gothic Atmosphere finds this attractive and while Psychedelic Imagery might be playing a little hard to get, it finds Gothic hard to resist…Mario Bava is probably my personal favorite director, as his output was both consistent and unique, almost always appealing to my tastes. “Kill Baby…Kill!” might have the stupidest title ever adorned to one of his movies, but it’s also probably his best movie because it embodies everything about his style…and it goes together so seamlessly! It’s simultaneously stylish and spooky, enough so that I don’t even mind that the story doesn’t make a lot of sense. The acting and dialogue might seem dated by todays standards, but even that adds to the charm of these types of films. The campier elements fit snugly within the rest of the films over-the-top presentation. “Kill Baby…Kill!” is as great as the title is f@cking stupid…and that title is f@cking stupid…
This is my original writing, which I’m still happy with, so enjoy!
The movie begins with a school deciding to have its students draw a picture as to what they think the world will be like 50 years from now. The neighborhood crazy girl, Lucinda, writes down a bunch of numbers. Lucinda apparently is a psychic, and is also the most edgy little kid I’ve ever seen in a movie. Seriously, she’s actually very believable in her edginess, and this makes her quite unnerving. The pictures are put in a time capsule which is to be sealed, only to be opened 50 years later. Half a century later, we meet John (Nicolas Cage), our hero and single Father. He is a professor who specializes in “Exposition 101” and the subject currently is “Do things happen by accident or is there a greater purpose?”. I always love these scenes, as they are foreshadowing at its laziest.
Anyway, the time capsule is unsealed and Caleb happens to be the one to get Lucinda’s letter. He takes it home, and John gets a hold of it. In perhaps the most unbelievable moment of the movie, John quickly deduces some of the numbers, correlating the destruction of the Twin Towers and others. This bugged me, as John was your typical Atheist (or maybe agnostic), who didn’t buy into any of this stuff and somehow quickly gets into it. He learns that the numbers predict all major accidents, and that the next one is scheduled for tomorrow. Naturally, no one believes him and he kind of drops it…..Until something happens tomorrow (hint, hint: Plane). More accidents happen, and he begins to wonder what happens when the numbers run out. Along the way, he teams up with Lucinda’s daughter, as well as having to deal with mysterious figures dressed in black. The kids call these guys the “whispering people”, which is pretty corny, but whatever.
Now, I’ve made this movie sound like quite the joke. Yes, it’s flawed, especially in its first act. There are some flaws later on, such as a “stupid character move” near the end. But the circumstances as well as the actors conviction tend to make up for that. What really makes “Knowing” work is the impending doom that hangs over everyones heads. What happens when the numbers run out? That question serves as the foundation for the suspense and every subsequent scene adds to it. I was worried I’d be disappointed with the answer, but I wasn’t. It was a satisfying pay-off. I thought the cinematraphy, the effects and the score were all very well done, with the director providing enough atmosphere, excitement and spookiness to keep me invested. The cast deserves credit for selling me on the concept, which inherintly comes with a lot of skepticism. I’m tired of the whole “Atheist regains faith through crisis” character arc though. I appreciated “Knowing”, but it was panned by the critics, so this is definitely one battle I seem to be fighting on my own.Rating: 3/4
Laura, a woman who everyone seems to be falling in love with, has been murdered. As a detective tries to piece things together, he realizes that he is falling in love with her too! When it comes to whodunit murder mysteries, I consider myself to be a connoisseur…or should I say…Carnosaur?! BWAHAHAHA, I am the first reviewer to plug “Carnosaur” in a review of “Laura”, which is why you probably should not be reading my writings…cause you should be watching “Carnosaur”…Anyway, I was taken aback when my considerable movie-deduction skills were being bested by “Laura”…again…and again…and it kept playing me like a fiddle all the way up until the final revelation came and robbed me of any chance of redeeming myself. I am great when it comes to solving mysteries in film, yet the twists of “Laura” kept surprising me and I was forced to concede defeat to a film that was made in the 1940’s….and I loved it.
I think a large part of the scripts’ success is that so much was continuously shrouded in ambiguity, so we’re left guessing what is real or not all the way through the ending. Even the titular character, Laura, is a complete enigma because everyone seems to be reinventing the woman in their own minds. Is she a saint? Is she manipulative? It depends on who you believe and because we are learning about her through the eyes of her biased suitors, we have to come to our own conclusion as to what kind of person Laura really was. No one can be described as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ here, as everyone is defined by their shades of grey. They’re all believable as people, but their dialogue is continuously sharp and witty, a necessity for any good murder mystery. “Laura” is technically an example of film noir and director Otto Preminger uses the traditional framing and moody lighting to evoke the style, but he mostly serves the script and his cast. Nevertheless, there are a few eye popping moments of surrealism and the score is strikingly poetic. The cast is excellent and I can’t praise the likes of Mark McPherson, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price and Gene Tierney enough, as they all play their roles to perfection- each standing out without necessarily stealing the show. “Laura” is a classic, an exceptional film in every way that satisfies my murder mystery cravings, while not being limited to its own genre. It’s one of those movies I believe that everyone should watch at some point, just like “Carnosaur 3: Primal Species”.Rating: 4/4
“Legion” boasted a somewhat creative concept, albeit at the expense of potentially alienating Christians around the world…The idea is that God has become disillusioned with mankind, so sends the angels to exterminate us, much to the chagrin of Archangel Michael (Paul Bettany). Michael decides to sever his wings and protect a pregnant waitress named Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), who may be carrying the second coming of Christ…Sounds kind of offensive to those who believe in the religion, right? Well…not really…If anything, I think the filmmakers of “Legion” were afraid of the backlash and were too safe in their execution of this concept….and this is coming from someone who identifies as a Christian. The resolution to the central conflict was kind of lame and dumb, but to be fair, it wasn’t like the writers had crafted a particularly smart story leading up to that point. The script is strangely uncreative with its central idea, having Angels wield mundane weapons like blades and guns, while the narrative unfolds like a traditional zombie picture. Everyone seems guilty of the usual dumb moments which plagues the genre, so while “Legion” might be dressed with an imaginative concept, it’s just to distract us from how conventional it really is. This isn’t to say it’s entirely devoid of merit, as the movie does have an impressive cast, such as Dennis Quaid, Paul Bettany, Charles S. Dutton, Tyrese Gibson and Lucas Black. Even better, they all showed up with the clear intention of working, as each of their performances are really good, even to the point of elevating the rest of the film. Furthermore, there are some fun creature effects and the exciting action scenes. As long as you accept “Legion” as dumb entertainment, it’s passable, if a bit underwhelming considering its potential.Rating: 2/4
Betty (Cristina Marsillach) is an Opera singer who has just secured the role of a lifetime, Lady Macbeth. Unfortunately, the gig comes with a serial killer, who forces her to watch him kill all of her friends. “Opera” is considered to be Dario Argento’s last masterpiece and I agree, if only because horror fans almost universally like the movie. I consider it to be quintessential Argento, showcasing all of his strengths and weaknesses alike. All of Argento’s trademarks are on display, from the little details such as the killer wearing black gloves to the animal motifs. I find it difficult describing Argento’s style because in his prime, he was constantly adding to his already excessive visual flourishes, so I’m forced to point out individual scenes. The kills are mean spirited, but ambitious from a special effects, editing and cinematographer’s perspective. A character will get stabbed in the face and we will see the knife enter from the inside of the victims mouth, which looks f@cking aweso-er, horrific. I totally was not just squeeing about the coolness of a death scene. His movies always had ambitious camerawork, surreal color palettes and nail biting suspense during this time period. “Opera” is a choppily paced film, but there are some nerve terrorizing sequences that left me agitated. I’m not entirely sure why Argento had to force in these rock-themed soundtracks during this phase in his career though, as they never felt right for these visuals.
But Argento has always been a style-over-narrative kind of director and in this case, the script is even sloppier than usual. All of the characters are constantly making unbelievably bad decisions. One character unmasks the killer, but has to DRAMATICALLY PAUSE without saying his name, so that the killer can recover and do his thing. I never understood Betty’s reluctance to go to the Police and for the love of God woman, REACT. She witnesses her friends get killed gruesomely, but she seemingly shrugs it off within the next scene. With films like “Deep Red” or “Tenebre“, the weak scripts were usually redeemed with a cool reveal, but “Opera” is pretty predictable. There is one ludicrous-yet-imaginative strategy to lure out the killer involving Ravens that was both stupid and awesome…and so very much an Argento type of twist. I LOVE IT! “Opera” doesn’t make a lick of sense, probably because the script exists to showcase Argento’s visual panache and a handful of memorable death scenes, so liking it comes down to your opinions on the director himself. I am a huge Argento fan, so “Opera” was a good time for me.Rating: 3/4
QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1967)
While digging a new subway line in London, workers discover strange skeletal remains, along with a mysterious artifact. Professor Quatermass (Andrew Keir) is brought in to investigate, only to realize that humanity is in grave danger. “Quartermass and the Pit” is a pretty good Hamer Horror flick, boasting a strong cast and well written dialogue. The story is very talky, but at least the subjects are always interesting. I would argue that this is more science fiction than horror, but the finale becomes surprisingly ambitious and intense. There are some silly and outdated effects, but the movie has a classiness you just don’t see anymore.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Zodiac killer terrorized Northern California, but would subsequently vanish, his identity remaining a mystery. A newspaper cartoonist (Jake Gyllenhaal) becomes obsessed with solving the case.. I would almost describe “Zodiac” as an epic, as it encompasses so many different genres, dabbling in period piece drama, romance, murder mystery, police procedural and journalism thriller, with many characters who could each be the protagonist of their own movies and it’s 3 hours long. You can argue that the narrative feels bloated, but I thought it balanced all of its story-threads and would-be protagonists surprisingly evenly, the majority of them getting enough attention to be compelling. Despite the lengthy runningtime, “Zodiac” consistently kept my interest, but it’s more about the investigation into the crimes and the subsequent media frenzy than it is about the killings themselves. This movie is carried by its cast, which includes Jake Gyllenhaal (Robert Graysmith), Mark Ruffalo (Inspector Toshi), Robert Downy Jr. (Paul Avery), Brian Cox (Melvin Belli) and a few other recognizable faces, with each performance standing out as exceptional. Despite limited screen-time, everyone seems to have their own quirks and arcs, so the actors have a lot of tasty material to work with. The editing, direction, cinematography and music are all excellent, perfectly recreating the time period, but their function is primarily to showcase the actors. Does “Zodiac” have any flaws? Sure. Melanie (Chloe Sevigny) is the token love interest and her story thread isn’t as interesting as the others, although it was handled adequately. The narrative does start to run out of steam during the third act, but I don’t know how they would’ve fixed it, for the conclusion makes sense in giving the characters closure. The unsatisfying finale might’ve even been intentional, reflecting how the Zodiac killer became irrelevant after people moved on to new reigns of terror. You are being forced to experience the same emotions as its characters, so I was cool with its resolution- especially as the final confrontation was perfect. I think “Zodiac” is a very good movie, even if it’s the kind that’s in danger of being overrated. I’ve always struggled with rating this, as I can’t decide whether it’s a 3/4 or 3.5/4 experience. For now…Rating: 3.5/4