Awakening The Zodiac almost delivers on its smart premise

AWAKENING THE ZODIAC (Jonathan Wright). 100 minutes. Opens Friday (June 9). See listing. Rating: NNN

Awakening The Zodiac is a modest little Canadian thriller with a smart premise. A down-on-their-luck Virginia couple (Shane West, Leslie Bibb) purchase, with their eccentric pawn shop owner pal (Matt Craven), the contents of a storage locker and discover some home movies that they trace back to the notorious, never-captured Zodiac killer. They dream of splitting the $100,000 reward money, but of course the killer – who’s been in hiding for decades – soon realizes what they’re up to and wants those souvenirs back.

Obviously working on a small budget, director Jonathan Wright builds lots of suspense in the early scenes, but the dark and muddy cinematography makes it hard to see what’s going on. And the climax just isn’t very exciting. But the actors, especially Craven, commit to the silly script.

While Ottawa doesn’t exactly look convincing as Virginia, the fact that it was filmed up here means lots of grizzled, veteran Canadian actors (Kenneth Welsh, Stephen McHattie, Nicholas Campbell) get to plant red herrings throughout the film. And that’s fun.

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