I know all about serial killers; Bundy, Dahmer, Gacy, Gein, Krueger, Myers, Pennywise... all sweet as lamb chops.
What Shocked Me Most…
From the opening credits of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, there was a name that stuck out to me. One that I definitely recognized, but could not for the life of me place exactly where I had seen or heard that name before. That being the name of the film’s director, Joe Berlinger. After watching the film I felt a need to look up Berlinger’s filmography to come to the shocking realization that this was the very man that brought us Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. I mean, wow. What a twist! I didn’t know he was capable of directing any decent flicks.
All Joking Aside
Actually Joe Berlinger is a significantly well acclaimed documentarian director that even directed the Ted Bundy documentary released just eariler this year onto Netflix, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. In his latest feature, however, Berlinger proves that he can handle himself behind the camera outside of documentaries. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is a terrifically acted and relatively accurate tale of the man we all know as Ted Bundy; one of the most notorious, yet terrifyingly charming serial killers of all time. The film does a good job at really setting the audience into this time period where no one really knew if Bundy was guilty or not, no one was actually present during most of these horrific crimes to testify wholeheartedly that he was without a shadow of a doubt the deranged psychopath guilty of these acts. To basically everyone that interacted with this man, he was an amazingly charismatic dude that would easily be someone that everyone wanted to hang out with. From our modern perspective on the whole case though, we all know that the man was a monster in disguise.
Set between the years of 1969 and 1989, Ted Bundy (Zac Efron) meets a young single mother named Liz Kendall (Lily Collins) and they fall in love. Then sometime during the mid-1970s, Ted becomes involved in what appears to be large conspiracy plot set out to frame him for the disappearances of several missing young women. Years go by as the case becomes increasingly more wrapped up into America’s media and courtrooms while Bundy maintains his innocence for the many years he found himself incarcerated as Liz attempted to keep hope in Ted’s deceit being the truth.
The interesting thing about this film is that even though it is common knowledge Ted Bundy savagely butchered numerous women for many years, the execution does a solid job at engrossing the viewer into this man’s life and his personality. We, as the audience, grow to understand how Bundy could easily sway so many unsuspecting victims and manipulate so many individuals as a means for his own personal gain. Ted Bundy was a charming and intelligent young man, he knew exactly how to twist a conversation and charm beautiful women in a way to allow his extended company with them. Because of that, we get a look into what he was like strictly outside of his sinister goals and we somewhat invest ourselves into his story. Hell, there were scenes where I had my fingers crossed that the guy was innocent, even though everyone under the sun knows otherwise. That is largely in thanks to the fact that we are not shown much of these gruesome acts or Bundy committing them throughout the majority of the narrative. At the very end we are finally given the big ‘reveal’ of what this man truly was, but before that point I was appreciating the fact that the film was supplying a unique perspective on Bundy in showing how easy it was at the time to convince ourselves how this was no more than a decent guy simply in the wrong place at the wrong time is all.
This made watching the Ted Bundy character displayed here all that much more interesting to watch rather than seeing him commit a bunch of murders while prevalently thinking of everyone around him as a complete and utter moron for not seeing how this guy couldn’t be a killer. We get a look at the man that everyone saw at the time and not the hindsight view that we have of him now; creating a far more three dimensional character as well since we aren’t sure exactly how much to believe of Bundy’s word and how much is total fiction. We want to believe Ted Bundy here is a good guy, much like the rest of the world in the 1970s, sometimes convincing ourselves that the evidence is a complete fabrication, all because this was a likable man that seemed more than harmless enough. Then when it does finally pull the curtain, regardless of our public knowledge on Bundy, it still feels emotionally impactful to see Bundy for what he truly was. This was a smart way of crafting the story that I felt payed off in its third act.
Zac Efron did an incredible job capturing Ted Bundy’s mannerisms to a T; from the man’s little physical ticks to his overly confident persona that he displayed in front of the camera and in the courtroom. There are many scenes, particularly when Efron retains facial hair, that he really looks a lot like Ted Bundy as well. Efron had been an actor that I’ve liked for a number of years now, I think recently he has proven his comedic chops to be fantastic and now he proves his dramatic work to be exquisite. Efron encapsulates Bundy rather effortlessly in this film, the only thing that I would have personally preferred is if Efron was able to maybe mimic Bundy’s voice slightly more. Honestly though, that’s more or less a nitpick that I didn’t put all that much thought into while viewing the movie. What I believe Zac Efron’s most significant accomplishment in portraying this serial killer was in the physical performance that he gives with his face, specifically in his eyes. Efron nailed that down where the entirety of his face was capable of emoting sheer amounts of happiness, sadness, anger, etc. but his eyes were always hollow. When one looked into those eyes, they could tell that there was nothing there. No remanence of a soul or acknowledgment of human decency, there’s simply blackness. I feel as though I am Dr. Samuel Loomis speaking about Michael Myers, but it’s true. Any time I’ve seen any sort of interview of Bundy there was always something about his eyes that was obvious to me that this was an evil man, I can tell that Zac Efron saw it too.
Getting It All to Fit
There’s a lot to cover in all of the court cases present throughout the ‘70s, the multiple escapes Bundy himself performed from evading prison, the romantic subplots of Bundy’s multiple lovers, his time spent incarcerated, the numerous lawyers that represented Bundy, etc. But unfortunately some of the more significant historical events that occurred in the man’s life almost feel as a footnote that quickly becomes resolved as though they never mattered. Such as Bundy’s escapes from prison do feel extremely glossed over, as well as his relationship with Carole Ann Boone comes off as rushed, even though these were matters that warrant a bit more development than what was granted here.
On the other hand, when the film does get it right it does a very good job at giving a good amount of screen time to it. When it came to Liz’s romantic relationship that she shared with Bundy, that was difficult to watch and I mean that in a good way. We see how much Bundy has Liz completely wrapped around his finger, yet at the same time, their chemistry together is electric. It’s hard not to be warmed at the heart of seeing what potentially could have been for these two individuals, if not for Bundy’s terrible acts on humanity. Presenting a romantic tragedy somewhat reminiscent of what could be seen in David Cronenberg’s The Fly. The film begins and ends in similar fashion as well in opening on their relationship and witnessing the very tragic demise of it in the film’s final moments. Their relationship is probably the center of the film, which I feel is a large benefit that it has since we see the effects of what Bundy had on Liz and in a way made her yet another victim of Bundy’s in a different sense than the other women. Him stealing her life in a different manner than the dozens of other women, they were through acts of violence and depravity, while with Liz it was through genuine love; making it all the more heartbreaking to see.
I dug the movie, I didn’t necessarily believe it to be greatness, but I had a good time with it. Zac Efron’s and Lily Collins’ performances are top notch, the execution of Bundy’s character depiction greatly helped me as a viewer to see this man in a slightly different light than before while investing me in what occurred in his story, there are some pacing issues that could have used some fine tuning here and there, I definitely loved the soundtrack (extra disco and funk please), and the film is well enough made for what was directly placed into streaming sites. I don’t think that Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is something that everyone must rush to see and I honestly don’t think that I will ever watch this movie ever again. However, if someone were to come across it at some point on Netflix or what have you then I’m pretty sure they’d be rather satisfied with the end result. I certainly was entertained by the picture, so I hope that anyone reading this would be too.
That’s All Folks!
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, damn that title. It’s an eye catching for sure, but it’s a pain in the ass to remember. What do you think? Did you like or dislike the movie? Agree or disagree with me? Wish Ted Bundy would cut my head off with a hacksaw? Comment down below and let me know! If you so happened to have enjoyed my review then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a wicked day.
© 2019 John Plocar
Suzie from Carson City on June 27, 2019:
John....Thank you for this spectacular review. You have surely encouraged me to see this movie asap. Do you know one of our very best writers here in our HP community has shared with us that years ago, Ted was his family's paperboy? That would be as close I would have ever wanted to be to him!!
I truly enjoyed reading this. BTW, is it Weatherford, Texas or Oklahoma...or outside of the U.S.A? Peace, Paula
John Plocar (author) from Weatherford on June 27, 2019:
Thank you! I very much appreciate the compliment! =D
James A Watkins from Chicago on June 27, 2019:
Thank you for this fine movie review. Your writing is excellent.