Curse of the Zodiac (DVD)

Curse of the Zodiac (click to see it bigger)Starring Cassandra Church, Jack Quinn, Jon E. Nimetz

Directed by Ulli Lommel

Distributed by Lionsgate

During a recent move I packed up and misplaced a screener that I was supposed to watch and review. Feeling guilty for the delay, I searched through countless boxes and finally found the missing DVD. Upon watching it, I have come to the conclusion that it was better off lost in the cardboard labyrinth in my family room.

Now, my DVD player has been subjected to more cinematic abuse than any one player should ever have to endure. If there was ever a real life revolt of electronic devices, I know for certain that my DVD player would be the first to develop homicidal tendencies, and I believe Curse of the Zodiac could be the final insult that would cause such a violent reaction from my beloved appliance.

What should have been a quick 82-minute viewing turned into a two-day ordeal because I fell asleep the first time I tried to sit through this “film”. Sleeping was probably my body’s attempt at self-preservation. I can’t believe I actually sat through the end of the DVD just to write a guilt-free review.

Curse of the Zodiac takes one of the most interesting (in my opinion) unsolved serial killer cases and turns it into an overly dramatized, fully narrated jerk-off session! No matter how loosely you base a film on an actual event, there should be at least the tiniest iota of similarity. Simply having a murderer using the “Zodiac’s Symbol” isn’t enough. I may not be an expert on the actual case, but I do know that the real Zodiac killings were random to a baffling degree and that they didn’t seem to be excessively sexually motivated. Curse of the Zodiac, however, used sexual connotations during the ridiculous narrations before, during, and after each of the equally ludicrous murder scenes.

Not only do we have the killer prattling on non-stop with sexual and homophobic vulgarities, but we are also forced to tolerate the inane whining of a girl who is plagued by visions of the Zodiac’s killings. We are supposed to somehow believe that this woman has some sort of psychic link with the Zodiac and that she can see him kill before the crime is actually committed. There is also a writer who is taunted by the Zodiac throughout the film, but the character seems nearly irrelevant when viewed in the context of the film’s entirety.

Even the acting is nothing to write home about. Roles were either glaringly over-acted or so dismal that they simply faded into the rampant stupidity that filled out each scene. This could possibly have been changed or prevented if the writing and/or direction would have shown any shreds of aptitude.

There could have been at least one positive point to discuss about the film, but instead of showing the actual kills, the director opted to focus on the aftermath, which could have worked if the film hadn’t been such a disaster. Some of the make-up effects were actually well done, but the overall absurdity of the narration, mixed with the jerky framing and editing, caused even the most promising possibility of any actual redeeming quality to get lost in the shuffle. Decent or not, the gore in Curse of the Zodiac will leave any level of gorehound raging with disappointment.

The use of strange camera angles, effects, and editing just lend to the jumbled, pointless feel of the movie. You could get the same basic results if you strapped a camera to the back of a schizophrenic cocker spaniel. I’m not sure what they were actually going for. I think the director could have been attempting to create an artsy-fartsy sense of chaos, but instead he ended up with what felt more like a dizzying ride on a playground merry-go-round after smoking a stale joint.

I saw a screener only, but the DVD is supposed to have an audio commentary, deleted scenes, and a still gallery. Barely enough to merit mentioning.

The sorry fact is that Curse of the Zodiac is a total mess! The film takes a famously obscure series of crimes and tries to turn them into a raunchy collection of sexually motivated murders without the sex. The allure of the Zodiac for me is the totally random and seemingly unconnected manner in which he killed. It was enough to keep multiple police forces guessing for decades. Trying to “dress-up” the Zodiac case with sex and homophobic implications is just plain odious to me. The Zodiac case may be shrouded in ambiguity, but the real mystery to me is how Curse of the Zodiac ever got distribution.

1/2 out of 5

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Jon Condit