‘Beware… I am stalking your girls now.’
I absolutely love stuff about serial killers. I don’t care if that makes me weird or morally objectionable, and judging by the recent popularity of Netflix‘s Ted Bundy documentary, I am certainly not alone in this obsession. So… who’s your favourite? My wife likes John Wayne Gacy, whereas my friend Lewis is a Dahmer guy. For me, there is only one…
The Zodiac Killer terrorised the San Francisco area during the 60’s and 70’s with a kill count ranging from anywhere between 5 and 37. The Zodiac is fascinating for numerous reasons. He was never identified let alone caught. He radically changed his MO from murder to murder. He wrote dozens of letter to newspapers across America containing codes and ciphers, some of which have still never been solved. He is a riddle. An enigma. A mystery. All wrapped up together like a delicious but sinister plate of pigs in blankets.
Monster isn’t the first entertainment medium to tackle the Zodiac of course. There have been numerous movies, TV shows and books, capped off by David Fincher’s theatrical masterpiece Zodiac in 2007 – a film that may well be the most underrated movie ever. So what does Monster bring to the party then?
Well, first of all the first 7 or 8 episodes are gripping and slickly produced accounts of the five confirmed Zodiac murders plus the many other crimes that have been linked with the Zodiac Killer. If you are new to the case or just fancy a refresher, Monster is essential listening. Unfortunately, Payne Lindsey’s podcast succumbs to two common genre trappings that have resulted in the true crime format becoming so tired.
Firstly, at 11 episodes and counting it is simply far too long. At least 25% of each show feels like unnecessary padding, either by exploring tenuous links for too long or by going over details that we have already covered. Secondly, the true crime genre seems to struggle with the reality that serial killers are interesting but serial killer theories and theorists really are not. The last few episodes of Zodiac spend ages poring other fan theories and suspects when it is clear that nobody really knows for sure. By acknowledging that every ‘expert’ on the Zodiac is actually pursuing their own agenda, as this podcast does, but also giving air time to the vast amount of theories out there, Monster is attempting to have its cake and eat it. You can’t dismiss some of the more outlandish theories as biased one minute and then in the next breath devote an episode to ‘Zodialogists’ – people who meet up at the crime scenes every year to swap stories.
Apparently, there are still new episodes on the way but Monster has probably lost me now. For those of you out there who are interested in lifting the metaphorical rock to expose the slime underneath, I heartily recommend the first 8 episodes of Monster. Maybe move on to something else at that point though.