The Zodiac Killer has hit the cinemas again. In a new film titled “Awakening the Zodiac” the code of the killer is broken.
Most readers of this blog are certainly familiar with the Zodiac Killer case. The Zodiac Killer was a serial killer who operated in Northern California in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He sent four encrypted messages to local newspapers, three of which have never been deciphered. His identity remains unknown.
The Zodiac Killer has inspired dozens of film makers, musicians, and game developers (see Wikipedia entry Zodiac Killer in popular culture). There are two movies that tell the story of this case:
- Zodiac (2007), directed by David Fincher, is the more popular screen adaption of the Zodiac Killer case. This 158 minutes movie covers virtually every detail of the case. In my view, Zodiac is especially worth seeing if one already knows the case. Otherwise one gets easily overwhelmed by the long, fast and detailed plot.
- The Zodiac (2005) is generally considered the less successful of the two Zodiac movies. The plot covers only a part of the original case, which makes this motion picture easier to follow than the Fincher production. In my view, this film is better than its reputation.
In both films the Zodiac cryptograms are mentioned, but they play only a minor role.
A third Zodiac film
Now a third Zodiac movie has hit the cinemas (for US readers this might be old hat, but here in Germany the premiere was only on August 3). It’s titled Awakening the Zodiac (check here for the film website). Here’s the official trailer:
To be honest, I didn’t know about this film until reader Eric Danielski told me about it yesterday. As it seems, Awakening the Zodiac did not receive much attention in the German media. Too bad, I always appreciate it when crypto history topics get publicity.
To be precise, Awakening the Zodiac is not a screen adaption of the Zodiac case. In fact, it tells a story that is set in the present time, i.e., almost five decades after the murders took place.
The plot is about a young couple, Mick (Shane West) und Zoe Branson (Leslie Bibb), that uncovers an old film reel depicting two gruesome murders taken by the Zodiac killer himself. Assisted by their friend Harvey (Matt Craven) the two set out to solve the mystery and claim the $100,000 reward. But the situation quickly changes, as the hunters become the hunted.
In my view, Awakening the Zodiac is a conventional thriller. If you like films of this genre, you will probably like this one, too. However, the critiques it has received are mostly negative.
The crypto part
Compared to the other two Zodiac films, Awakening the Zodiac cares a lot more about the encrypted messages. One of the protagonists even manages to break one of the hitherto unsolved cryptograms. The encryption method used turns out to be a combination of a Caesar, a Vigenère and a Pigpen cipher. Readers of this blog should know these methods quite well. Unfortunately, no details about the deciphering are given.
The movie even introduces a new Zodiac cryptogram. It can be seen on the following screenshot:
Can a reader break this encryption?
Further reading: The Fair Game code: Here are the complete screenshots