The Zodiac (2006) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Zodiac2006

The Zodiac (2006)



Critic Consensus: The Zodiac turns one of modern history's most enduringly fascinating true crime stories into a forgettable procedural with lackluster production values.

The Zodiac Photos

Movie Info

In the late 1960s, a police detective and his son become obsessed with a serial killer in northern California known as the Zodiac Killer, endangering their own family in the process.


Justin Chambers
as Matt Parish
Robin Tunney
as Laura Parish
Rory Culkin
as Johnny Parish
William Mapother
as Dale Coverling
Philip Baker Hall
as Chief Frank Perkins
Brad William Henke
as Bill Gregory
Rex Linn
as Jim Martinez
Marty Lindsey
as Zodiac Killer
Kris Palm
as Michael
Nate Dushku
as Scott Washington
Kathryn Howell
as Mrs. Boucher
Luis Sagua
as Sammy Karzoso
Ian Scott McGregor
as Paul Carmichael
Jodi Feder
as Gina Chambers
Logan Fahey
as Friend #1
Joe Stricker
as Friend #2
D.C. Meyer
as Ambulence Driver
George Maguire (II)
as Morgue Technician
Paul Ghiringhelli
as Victor Ramirez
Peter Van Shaik
as Pete Morgan
David Tenenbaum
as S.F. Police Officer
A. Donald Cross
as Elderly Man
David Tenebaum
as S.F. Police Officer
View All

News & Interviews for The Zodiac

Critic Reviews for The Zodiac

All Critics (31) | Top Critics (9)

The Zodiac has been made with the dunderheaded flatness of bad '70s TV.

March 22, 2006 | Rating: D-

It has the look of a straight-to-video movie, or at best a Project Greenlight production.

March 17, 2006 | Rating: 1/4

The would-be psychological thriller devolves into a plodding domestic drama.

March 17, 2006 | Rating: 1/5 | Full Review…

The B-team version of the story.

March 17, 2006 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…

Have the screenwriters ever studied the concept of arc, how characters evolve from opening to closing credits?

March 17, 2006 | Rating: C- | Full Review…

Treats the unfolding murder spree like a routine police procedural.

March 16, 2006 | Rating: 1.5/4

Audience Reviews for The Zodiac


As a culture we are obsessed with serial killers. While some writers choose to glorify these monsters, others simply want to show the truth behind their crimes and the investigation that followed. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, the real story is no where near as interesting as Hollywood makes it out to be, that's where the based on a true story comes in. The case of the infamous Zodiac Killer was a fascinating case, of a man who not only killed at random, but who also taunted the police, by publishing cryptic ciphers in the newspaper, claiming if they cracked the ciphers, they'd know who he was. The man behind the crimes was certainly an interesting case, but the long investigation into finding out who the person might have been, was not. As a film, The Zodiac is said to be a fairly accurate portrayal of the crimes, the investigation, the paranoia than gripped the city, and the political pressure everyone faced as a result. The film makers didn't want to take liberties with the story, glorify the crimes, or present unproven theories from any one of the a number of books written about the Zodiac Killer. That being said, what happened was interesting, but also fairly slow moving and more than somewhat dry. For those people who are unfamiliar with the story of the Zodiac, they may enjoy learning about this case, but for those of us who know it, watching this film was like seeing a very long episode of the First 48. It's interest, the acting is suitable, and it passes the time, but if you're looking for a real entertaining, Hollywood version of the Zodiac story, you'll be much happier with the film simply titled, Zodiac, from 2007, starring Robert Downey Jr. That film is based on one of the more populist theories of the crime, and features more edge of your seat action than it's predecessor.

Todd Smith
Todd Smith

Super Reviewer

I like how this film is super emphatic about the its being "based on true events", even though it's pretty darn obvious, considering the notoriety of this subject matter, and then it ends up putting together a roster of characters that's all but entirely populated by people they just made up (They even made up the victims' names; curse you, legal issues!). I don't know if the Zodiac Killer is still alive, but this film certainly enlightened me on the fact that Justin Chambers is still alive, which is actually kind of sad, because considering that this panned, lame take on the Zodiac Killer case that no one saw gives Chambers one of his very few main roles, I reckon it's safe to say that his career isn't really going like he probably hoped it would. I reckon he's just glad to be back in the homicide detective gig after "Cold Case", and besides, this film had to get somebody who was a sort-of known actor in the lead role, which should tell you just how cheap this film is, because, come on, we're talking about that one guy from the first season of "Cold Case". Sure, this film has veteran character actor Philip Baker Hall under its belt, but other than that, some of your more notable cast members include Tom Cruise...'s cousin, as well as Macaulay Culkin...'s brother... who isn't Kieran. Shoot, now that I think about it, at this point, Rory may very well be more relevant than Macaulay, because he's certainly made something of a name for himself in the mediocre horror film industry, as further reflected by this film, which is so over-the-top in its "thrills" that it stands as yet another testament to the fact that a whole lot of people are getting pretty carried away with their worrying about a guy who didn't kill but about five people, like, forever ago, then proceeded to make a million threats that he didn't even try to live up to. I love how David Fincher's "Zodiac" from 2007 was honest to the point of tensing things up during the kills, and then kind of barely taking the Zodiac's subsequent threats all that seriously, though that might just be because that two-and-a-half-hour-long, slow thriller can get away with its having only so much tension, seeing as how it was [b]"awesome"[/b] (What, a masterfully-directed David Fincher film? Get out of town... if you don't believe that it can be done!), as opposed to this film, which I would hate to see be two-and-a-half hours and actively slow, seeing as how it's dull enough as it is. So yeah, this film is pretty awful, and yet, with that said, this film isn't without a few strengths, and by strengths, I mean minor complimentary aspects. Man, you know a film is bad when one of the absolute best things you can say about it is its improvable soundtrack, which, for that matter is rarely used, but hey, I've got to give credit where credit is due, and this film's soundtrack's tastes, while not as sharp as plenty of other '60s-set films' soundtracks, are decent as colorful compliments to what little entertainment value there is in this hardly watchable bore, while Michael Suby's score work, though often overbearing and consistently generic, is decent on a musical level, as well as occasionally genuinely complimentary to the effectiveness of this thriller. What further reinforces the considerably slim quantity of effective moments in this fall-flat psycho "thriller" are stylistic choices within Alexander Bulkley's direction that are, in fact, reasonably commendable, for although most of Bulkley's particularly stylish touches are annoyingly overbearing, if not simply forced, there are, in fact, occasions in which Bulkley gets a tight enough grip on photography and editing to pinch nerves. So yeah, on the off chance you haven't quite caught on by now, I'm stretching more than a yoga coach to find something worthy of compliment within this utter piece of garbage, so if you're expecting to see what I see, well then, pal, you should probably think about not counting your chickens before they hatch. Still, those about as willing as you can be to stick with this disaster are likely to find some highlights, - no matter how scarce they are in quantity - spawned from the ambition that may be overbearing, but sometimes breathes a bit of inspiration into things, and is, well, undeniably understandable. As reflected by the fact that it went on to spawn a great film, this subject matter is promising, and no matter how badly misguided this execution of an intriguing story concept is, you can see a bit of potential, not just within the basic subject matter, but within this film's concept of fabricating the Zodiac Killer case. Now, I'm not saying that bulling up the Zodiac case could ever come close to being a great idea, but this film isn't aiming to be the sprawling, highly factual dialogue thriller that is David Fincher's infinitely superior 2007 show-stopper, but instead an entertainment piece with the intention to put the idea of romanticizing its intriguing subject matter to further augment intrigue. Needless to say, when it came time for this film to put its money where its mouth it, it misfired tremendously, for although this film's high points are hard to deny, the final product is, on the whole, nothing short of awful, with mere mediocrity looming over some of its strongest aspects, including the acting department. Sure, there are a few decent spots in this film's acting department, with Rory Culkin being particularly decent... I guess as the slightly eccentric son of our protagonist (What, a Culkin doing a decent job of playing a weird-seeming kid? That's almost as outrageous as a masterfully-directed David Fincher film!), but on the whole, whether it be because of the bad writing or simply a lack of acting inspiration, the acting in this film goes as low as awful, and as high as mediocre, with leading man Justin Chambers being, not necessarily bad, but kind of bland as this film's protagonist. Outside of the aforementioned decent occasions, the acting in this film is mediocre at best, and mighty bad at worst, so it's not like you can expect this film to at least be carried by its performances, which isn't to say that the performers are entirely to blame for their not being able to sustain your investment, as I can see it being a fierce challenge to make writers Alexander and Kelley Buckley's material sound good. The Buckleys' script is nothing short of a mess, with weak dialogue and colorless characterization, all backed by aimless plotting that is still just eventful enough for the final product to have the opportunity to drench every last bit of its plotting in overwhelming genericism that reflects the embarassing laziness within the execution of this story concept, while Alexander Buckley's direction, on the other hand, reflects just how overbearingly overambitious this misfire is through some serious subtlety issues. The film very rarely disarms intensity within its atmosphere, and such consistent and overt atmosphere reinforcing just doesn't gel with a minimalist thriller of this type, to the point of making most every moment that doesn't involve a slaying feel cheesily manipulative, and it doesn't help that Buckley will have the guts to toss in an overbearingly over-the-top stylistic choice that, in comparison with the stylistic touches that are genuinely reasonably effective, is abundant in quantity, perhaps in a desperate attempt to obscure the fact that this film isn't even shot well. If Buckley does nothing else to keep up the film's exhausting and generally fall-flat foward momentum, he thins out almost every moment of slow-down to the point of dissipation, thus leaving the film to monotonously slapdash along with only so much focus on exposition, and too much focus on thrills that shouldn't even be there and, in most cases, aren't that. As exhaustingly frantic as this overbearingly busy thriller is, one of the final product's biggest problems is its simply being just too blasted dull, never to where it slips into the dreaded state of being truly tediously boring, but certainly to the point of losing you, time and again, while still sustaining just enough of your attention for you to have the chance to meditate upon the film's other flaws, of which there are way too many to count. This film could have held back and simply fallen flat as too bland to be bad, but mediocrity isn't enough for this trainwreck, which is too mediocrely-acted, poorly-written, exhaustingly overambition and overdone, and dull to be worthy of a little window in your life, so if you've about an hour-and-a-half to yourself to check out the story of the Zodiac Killer, then I would recommend that you try to expand that window and check out 2007's "Zodiac", because this film is nothing short of a colossal disaster. Overall, the music in this film is alright I guess, being somewhat supplementary to entertainment value, while the occasional effective moment in tension, - complimented by the occasional nifty stylistic choice - and value within this film's subject matter could have made this film decent, something that the final product is anything but, as their is too much mediocrity in the acting department, trite laziness in the writing department, and overbearingness, overstylizing, overambition and dullness within the direction departments for Alexander Bulkley's "The Zodiac" to be any better than an awful misfire of a forgettable thriller that can barely be forgotten quickly enough. 1.25/5 - Awful

Cameron Johnson
Cameron Johnson

Super Reviewer

Not as in-depth or graphic as David Fincher's version of the Vallejo killings and this one got a little boring at times too. But overall I thought it was ok and watchable at least. I do enjoy fact-based serial killer movies and I've seen a fair few and this was far from being the worst of them.

Lee ?
Lee ?

Super Reviewer

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