Over the weekends, I caught my first ever biography movie about Ted Bundy- Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, starring Zac Efron and Lily Collins.
I was left half impressed and half hanging for more.
Read on to know about the movie from a non-professional movie-reviewer and a biography movie first-timer.
Who is Ted Bundy?
Ted Bundy is America’s most infamous serial killer.
Known for being cool, collected and charismatic, Bundy became the poster boy for serial killers.
In the 1970s (and possibly earlier), Bundy started his murder streak.
In 1975, he was jailed for the first time in Utah, subsequently becoming a suspect for a long list of unsolved homicides across several states.
He famously escaped two murder charges in Colorado, further committing assaults before getting caught again in Florida.
In Florida, he became the first criminal to be trialled on national television and ultimately received death sentences.
After more than a decade of denials, a few days before his death sentence in 1989, Bundy confessed to 30 murders which took place across seven states. The true definition of heartless evil.
I can go on sharing with you his long lists of crimes. Now before this review gets unnecessarily long, I’ll attach a link to his biography here.
I highly advise you to gain some knowledge about him before you head into the theatres to get the most out of it – from a friend’s personal experience.
Although, you might get yourself some plot twist if you watch it without knowing who Bundy is.
What the film is based on
The film is directed by Joe Berlinger, who is known for producing documentaries about haunting true crimes.
But, I’m sure you would be more interested in the male lead– our hot and indeed charismatic high school musical sweetheart, Zac Efron as Ted Bundy. The female lead would be brunette beauty, Lily Collins, as Elizabeth Kendall.
This film is based on the book The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy, a first-person account work by the real Elizabeth Kendall. The film hence depicts the events and stories recalled by Kendall, as well as her traumatizing encounters with Bundy.
In addition, scenes also closely narrate true events according to footages of the real Bundy and other figures such as his mother and Carole Ann, Bundy’s wife.
My thoughts on the film
The film received mixed reviews from professional critics. Most praised Efron’s excellent performance but criticised the overall essence of the film.
And I agree.
The film initially committed to telling the story from Kendall’s eyes, since it was based on her book. However, halfway through the film, or perhaps nearer to the beginning, the film lost this focus. There wasn’t a clear viewpoint, not Bundy’s, not Kendall’s.
This review, by Emily Yoshida from Vulture, summarises my exact thoughts regarding this point.
“The narrative feature from veteran documentarian Joe Berlinger seems as though it’s setting out to be the story of serial killer Ted Bundy told through the eyes of his girlfriend…But Berlinger’s film gets sucked into the gravity of sensational events that are already a matter of public record, and spends so much time meticulously recreating them that the perspective is diluted.”
Kendall Was Lost In The Process
Kendall started as a young mother in love. Subsequently, she experienced doubt, guilt and eventual relief after a decade.
But, how did she manage her feelings (besides drinking)? How did she eventually come to terms with the truth? What was her thoughts process?
As a film which is supposed to be told from her perspective, these are areas that should have been addressed.
The audience (especially those who are unaware of who Bundy is) undoubtedly will place more focus on Bundy.
Still, this loss of perspective isn’t a major issue. The movie still managed to hold my attention for the most part. Watching the real scenes play out on the movie screen was interesting.
What robs the film of excitement and thrill is the lack of crime scenes. While the film clearly describes that Bundy was violent – through lawyers’ narration and a scene where a dog shrinks at the sight of Bundy, it doesn’t show just how violent he can be.
I actually want to see how he lured the women into secluded areas and performed his gory acts. It will definitely bring the audience on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.
There is one such scene, the director put in flashes of how Bundy charmed a girl, dragged her to the forest and sawed her head off.
To be honest, it was the most thrilling and breath-sucking 10-15 seconds scene of the whole movie.
As the credits rolled, real footages of the real Bundy played. Words that Efron spoke in the film were uttered by Bundy himself.
To conclude, the film is like a visual narration of Ted Bundy’s Wikipedia page. I’d encourage you to watch it if you are lazy to read the long website.
Throw in a little of Kendall’s emotional scenes, and you get the movie.
The movie, as good as it already is, would have been better if it was more dramatic and daring.
In fact, if it explores the psychological depths of Kendall’s emotions and even Bundy’s psychotic reasons behind his actions, audiences would’ve been more impressed with it.
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