Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile provides an interesting synopsis of Ted Bundy’s time in captivity but shies away from exploring the difficult questions.
On the surface it seems extremely flattering to cast Disney heartthrob Zac Efron in the role of a sadistic serial killer responsible for the deaths of over 30 women, seemingly taking Ted Bundy at his personal estimation of himself.
However, it proved to be a good decision. Efron succeeds in mimicking Bundy’s exuberant and cunning personality with an aptitude we didn’t know he possessed. Enhanced by prosthetic makeup, the 31-year-old nails both the look and mannerisms of the killer, bringing the same presence and charisma to the role that succeeded in mystifying the public and media throughout Bundy’s prosecution.
Director Joe Berlinger – who also helmed the hit Netflix documentary series Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes – chooses to focus on the surface of Bundy’s life; the enthusiastic law student with aspirations of political distinction, and an infatuation with single-mum Liz Kendall (on whose memoir of their relationship is based), while largely avoiding the heinous crime angle in favour of a more lightweight biopic.
The film glancingly acknowledges the misogynistic and murderous activity that consumed so much of Bundy’s energy and private thoughts, confirmed by his own tapes. But the absence of further exploration and personal revelations limits what we can take from the story. We aren’t really introduced to anything new.
The reticence could be intended to show Bundy’s warped image of himself, a decent, talented man whose insatiable lust for violence wasn’t the whole making of his character. But it just feels slightly shallow and under-developed when compared to the captivating reality.