Several years ago, a good friend and co-worker was describing me to a newly hired employee. "He's a nice guy, and a lot of fun to work with," she said. "In fact, he's really charming, but in a serial killer sort of way."
You could've heard a very large, and very sharp kitchen knife drop.
My friend meant the description as a compliment, she explained. "He's just sort of eccentric, and has lots of social tics and behaviors that are kinda...funny. But he's really nice! Of course, I didn't mean 'serial killer' in that way."
The new employee didn't last very long. But while he was there, I noticed he didn't interact with me very much.
The comment stuck in my head because (besides the obvious reason of being a bit embarrassed) I've had a nearly life-long interest in serial killers. Including the Zodiac killer, who I consider the forerunner of modern day sociopaths. Sure, serial murderers killed before Zodiac, and some that came after him were more prolific and even more sinister. But the Zodiac case inspired a whole new generation of serial killers; killers who murdered in order to satisfy an obsessive, intrinsic need and to play cat-and-mouse with the cops and media.
Zodiac stars some of the best young actors in film today. Jake Gyllenhaal is Robert Graysmith, a newspaper cartoonist who develops an unhealthy obsession with identifying the Zodiac killer, and Mark Ruffalo as the detective who lead the investigation. (Ruffalo's character, David Toschi, was a role model for the Clint Eastwood film, Dirty Harry, and some of his personality style was used to create Steve McQueen's character in the flick Bulitt.) Working separately, both men begin to focus in on a specific suspect; by the time they combine efforts the case has gone cold and no arrests can be made.
Zodiac is a terrific old-school sleuth flick that takes it's time allowing the story to unfold. The acting is good. So good, in fact, that it seems secondary to the story itself. And here's how real the movie felt: midway through, I walked upstairs and double bolted the front door and checked the locks on the windows.
Just in case.