“THE ZODIAC KILLER”— Tabloid Horror


Tabloid Horror

Amos Lassen

Tom Hanson’s “The Zodiac Killer” was made with the idea that it would help capture the real Zodiac Killer but that failed and instead the movie is one of the most æ outrageous and compelling tabloid horror films ever made.

Who was the real Zodiac Killer? Knowing this may not help you understand the film but nonetheless it is interesting. A man went around killing people in the streets with a gun, except for when he did it in the daylight with a knife. There were questions as to whether this was one man or multiple people.  The killer(s) sent out letters detailing the crimes in a weird code that was related to the Zodiac symbols.

The plot of this movie is barely there and is about a postal worker goes around shooting people in their cars. It opens with a disclaimer by “San Francisco Chronicle” reporter Paul Avery who describes the movie as a public service and we soon see that it is somewhere between a nasty exploitation film and realistic true-crime drama. The film opens with two murders. In the first a cab driver is shot in the head (an actual murder committed by the Zodiac Killer). This scene is followed by a young girl on a bike being tackled and stabbed to death by the same murderer (but this did not really happen). Like the Zodiac killer himself, one side is as entertaining as the other. The true-life-inspired murders have more attention to detail and shocking realism, so they’re easy to spot and they are disturbing but the outrageous fake murders seem improvised on the spot and are more humorous than anything else. Whoever the Zodiac was, he scared the San Francisco area for almost ten years, striking with no warning, without reason, and with no preference to the race, sex, or age of his victims. If there was one good thing to come of his killing spree, this is it.

There is very little known about. It is rumored that he owned a string of pizza places before he went into film.

“The Zodiac Killer” is a true-crime expose that attempts to provide a theoretical rationale for San Francisco’s famed late-60s Zodiac murders. Accordingly-yet-surprisingly, the film sticks close to the facts yet is filled with contradictions. There are many absurd details. It is filled with strange tangents, a disdainful attitude and weirdness and it does this within a framework of factual events. I can’t say any more about the plot because it would ruin the viewing experience so you will just have to decide for yourself. I had a great time watching it.

Special Features include:

– New 4K scan from the only surviving 16mm blow-up elements!

– Commentary track with Tom Hanson, Manny Nedwick, and more!

– Interview with director Tom Hanson and actor Manny Nedwick!

– Tabloid-horror trailers from the AGFA archive!

– Liner notes and director Tom Hanson interview by Chris Poggiali of TEMPLE OF SCHLOCK!

– Reversible cover art!

– Bonus movie: ANOTHER SON OF SAM (1977)! New 2K scan from a 35mm theatrical print!

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