Director: Joe Berlinger | Starring: Zac Efron, Lily Collins | Certificate: 15
“Society wants to believe it can identify evil people, or bad or harmful people, but it’s not practical. There are no stereotypes.”
These are the words of the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy, who committed some of the most heinous crimes ever known to man. The Sky Cinema and Netflix original film portrays the charming yet incredibly evil man who attacked, raped and murdered around thirty young women in some acts of violence that are too disturbing to even name. The appropriately titled Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile film is a harrowing biopic that stars Hollywood’s attractive Zac Efron and Lily Collins as it depicts the breakdown of their relationship as Ted Bundy is suspected of a list of kidnappings in 1970s America.
Instead of a chronological depiction of Bundy’s life told from the perspective of the notorious serial killer, the film’s structure follows Liz Kendall (Lily Collins), his girlfriend at the time, and her attempts to deal with the strain on their relationship. The film presents episodic points in their life from the highs of their love and happiness to the cold, disturbing revelations in the courtroom that unveiled another much darker side to the seemingly charming young law student. Based on a memoir Liz wrote titled The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy, the film does a great job of tracking the intelligent and loving boyfriend as he begins to unveil himself as a monster of society, indulging in young women by luring them in with his charisma and good looks. It is fair to say that the film does not capture the true wickedness and evil that truly defined Bundy as one of America’s worst serial killers, however, ensures that it in no way attempts to glorify the despicable human being. Despite being initially told from the girlfriend’s perspective, the film seems to step away from that angle as Ted becomes his own defence lawyer to prove his innocence and avoid execution on the electric chair. Though critics have deemed this a fault on the film’s part, I would commend this structural change as it truly epitomises the way his articulation and charisma allowed him to cultivate his own public image; a montage of young girls reveals their infatuation with him and claiming he must be innocent since evil does not exist in smart, attractive law graduates like Bundy – right? Ted Bundy’s court case was the first to be televised in the United States in the 1970s, and these scenes reflect exactly how violent, inhumane and outright evil can mask itself through the controlling of one’s own narrative.
The film offers some promising scenes but never quite captures the horror that Ted Bundy’s crimes entailed or its horrifying effects on his innocent victims. The casting choice of Efron, however, is the most impressive aspect. Efron is best known for his role as the teenage singing basketball player Troy Bolton in the High School Musical series and his numerous comedy roles in films like Bad Neighbours, Baywatch and 17 Again. His performance in Extremely Wicked is credible and refreshing and exemplifies his acting ability going beyond the standard blue-eyed pretty-boy of Hollywood. Efron was the executive producer of the film, and he does a brilliant job of capturing the alluring yet disturbing serial killer.
This film is worth the watch. Ted Bundy was a horrible, inhumane and psychopathic murderer who took the lives of many young girls for his own personal sickening gratifications. As the horrifying serial killer knew himself, society cannot tell us what constitutes evil because, terrifyingly, evil can and does exist in many forms, as this film ultimately perpetuates.