Joe Berlinger’s Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is the dramatisation of Ted Bundy’s relationship with Liz Kendall, one of the few women to survive the serial killer’s infamous spree of terror in the 70s. Following up from his four-part docu-series showcasing real tapings of interviews with the killer.
No press is bad press, but why, for the majority of this film are we looking at serial killer Ted Bundy through the lens of the misunderstood?
Although it’s established Bundy committed the crimes during the end credits, I can only express my exasperation at Berlinger’s attempts to show nothing but the charming abilities of Bundy and not dig any deeper.
Sympathy for the devil?
Until final prosecution, it’s almost led to establish doubt. Interestingly, show us the obscene attraction individuals develop for infamous killers after their death or incarceration. It’s worthy of further exploration itself – our obsession with murderers and their personal lives can often get nauseating.
In Extremely Wicked, Joe Berlinger manages to successfully give us some insight into how Bundy’s girlfriend, Liz Kendall lived through the confusion and emotional turmoil of loving such a deceiving killer. But it’s just all surface level.
The title suggests we’ll see further glimpses into the dark world of Bundy’s crimes. He’s a serial killer, rapist, burglar and necrophile, but we just see the charming asshole side for most of the film. I’m not suggesting Zac Efron should have got intimate with a corpse either. I think we’ve just got a classic ‘Netflix film’. A TV dinner. A midweek special at best on our hands.
However, credit to Efron, who’s disturbingly charming, carrying the film in all honesty with his Bundy-like ego. His representation of a pseudo-intellectual law career and his ability to be almost believable in his relentless denial is brilliant.
The prison escapes offer the only tense moments Extremely Wicked has to offer and again we see little to any of the crimes committed, that he’s always in court for. Lily Collins plays Liz, the girlfriend who can’t seem to shake Bundy. Collins’ has been a victim of poorly written past roles and this, unfortunately, is no exception. A courtroom cameo for John Malkovich, playing a rather patient Judge Edward Cowart, at least adds something to this vapid affair.
Extremely Wicked is scored strangely too, music for a (somehow allowed) prison visit room sex-capade for Bundy and superfan Carol Anne Boone is unfitting and the whole scene feels very strangely edited.
The editing creates an odd Bundy POV rip off of Catch Me if You Can or American Psycho. By the time we see an ounce of violence, it isn’t contextualised, it’s a tap on the shoulder to stay awake, with the film is almost over.
Maybe it should be retitled: Extremely Not That Wicked, Shockingly Boring and In Poor Taste?
It needed more truth, more honesty and more respect, but it did have the right amount of Zac Efron. Let’s not come away from this closer to Ted Bundy, but more aware he may have been a charming, dashing man but he was a deviant and a killer.
Watching the Ted Bundy tapes or spending an hour or so on YouTube watching some true crime documentary might be a better use of your time.
I was left with a bitter taste.