The true story of the trial of Ted Bundy,
America's most notorious serial killer.
Few names represent heinous murder and vicious rage more than Ted Bundy. His crimes were horrific, unforgettable, and plentiful. He's been billed as America's most notorious serial killer, a title that Jeffrey Dahmer, Gary Ridgway, Dennis Rader, or the Zodiac Killer couldn't take away from him. His trial was a media feeding frenzy, as it was the first time a murder trial had been filmed live in court. And there was something about Bundy that had some people convinced of his innocence, which he insisted on until he confessed to save his own ass from the electric chair for a time. This film showcases the complicated relationship between Bundy and his longtime girlfriend Liz Kendall, and instead of focusing on his crimes, the film attempts to humanize Bundy, if such a monster can be humanized.
Zac Efron shows his surprising range as Bundy, playing him as an optimistic womanizer who's just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But underneath the bravado is a flicker of menace that defines the real monster perfectly. He wasn't Jack the Ripper, and he wasn't the boogeyman. Ted Bundy was the nicest guy in the world, until he wasn't. That's why people were mesmerized by him. He didn't have a rough childhood, he wasn't abused, he wasn't crazy, he just wanted to kill women in horrible ways. Lily Collins does a phenomenal job as Liz, so much so that you actually start to feel that maybe she did the wrong thing turning him in. Of course, then you remember that he was never innocent, and all that goes away pretty quickly.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile deserves a look simply for Efron's performance as America's worst monster. The film itself is fairly boilerplate, as is the case with a lot of biopics, but the true crime fascination keeps it from ever becoming boring. If anything, it makes you want to look into Bundy yourself and find out the real story.
I highly respect Joe Berlinger, a master craftsman when it comes to documentaries. Extremely Wicked is just his second go at a feature length film, and overall, it was fresh and informative. Zac Efron portrays Ted Bundy in fine fashion, but we know a lot about that human already. It was Lily Collins's performance as his longtime girlfriend, Liz Kendall, that gave us something different. The film explores the case and the human interactions that occurred during it, not the actual crimes themselves.
This film doesn’t glorify Bundy, but it shows you just how people were fooled by him so long ago. The best parts of the film are the courtroom conversations we get between Judge Cowart (Malkovich) and Bundy (Efron), who are both relentlessly entertaining. Anyone who likes true crime, which seems to be a frighteningly high number of people, will find this a must-watch as it offers up perspectives we haven’t quite seen before.