Director David Fincher redefined the serial-killer movie subgenre with his 1995 thriller Seven, and he does so again with Zodiac (Paramount), an impeccably executed procedural following three men who were consumed for decades with San Francisco's infamous Zodiac killer. For a brief period in the early '70s, the Bay Area was held hostage by a murderer who communicated through cryptic puzzles. But the movie truly distinguishes itself when the case goes cold; then it evolves into a meditation on the nature of obsession
Bong Joon-ho's The Host (Magnolia) is essentially Godzilla meets Close Encounters meets the current breed of blackly comic Korean thrillers. While presenting a handful—albeit arguably too small a handful—of the best giant-monster attacks ever filmed, Bong skewers U.S. imperialism and his countrymen's occasionally ludicrous familial devotion. Warning: the monster may be a metaphor
For decades, major filmmakers flirted with big-screen adaptations of Patrick Süskind's legendary cult novel Das Parfum—a potboiler about a deranged perfume-making genius who murders a string of beauties in his mad quest for the ultimate scent. But it took Run, Lola, Run director Tom Twyker to transform Süskind's bestseller into deranged cinematic pulp. Twyker never manages to translate the novel's olfactory obsessions into visual poetry, but Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer (Paramount) is worth checking out for a fever-dream climax unique in the history of big-budget period filmmaking
The French feature Renaissance (Miramax) is less visually overwhelming on the small screen, and the storyline remains underwhelming regardless, but it's still a fascinating film. Rotoscoped Waking Life style, presented entirely in black and white, and packed with impressively detailed vistas full of animated rain, snow, and futuristic cities, it fills the screen with striking style. The twisty but standard-issue noir plot isn't nearly as innovative
Zany dogcatcher Jim Carrey becomes unhealthily obsessed with the sinister properties of the number 23 and a strange book that seems to echo his life in The Number 23 (Fox), Joel Schumacher's unintentionally hilarious attempt at mind-bending psychological terror. It'd be an understatement to call the results bizarre, hyperactive self-parody.