There have been many notorious murderers in the United States. One of them is Ted Bundy. Bundy’s reign of terror was during the 70s, an era that included the Hillside Strangler, Manson Family, and John Wayne Gacy. During this time, nobody was safe. Bundy’s trial was one of the most nationally covered trials in the history of the United States. He was an ex-law student who murdered, raped, sexually assaulted, and kidnapped women in at least 3 different states. As bright, handsome, and creative as Ted Bundy was; he was an evil, sick, psychotic man that committed atrocities so horrible you’d think they were from a horror film. So it is with Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile that Bundy’s true self comes to life in cinematic form.
Debuting at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile follows the story of Theodore ‘Ted’ Bundy (Zac Efron) and Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Kloepfer (Lily Collins). The film received a ton of backlash upon the release of its trailer. Many people on social media sites bashed the film’s trailer for putting the spotlight on Ted Bundy’s attractiveness. Since the release of the film, things have been fairly quiet controversially, so we can judge on our own how we feel about the film.
Extremely Wicked starts when he meets Liz at a bar, he takes her home and they hit it off perfectly. Going by timestamps, Bundy had killed at least six women at this point. The film doesn’t go as in-depth with the investigations, but they do go in-depth with Bundy and Liz’s relationship. They show how manipulative and crazy he was over her. Bundy used the women in his life to manipulate his story and maintain innocence. You get to see Bundy as a pathological liar and madman all in one. You also get to see how painful all of this was for Liz: somebody she was madly in love with had committed these atrocities. She spends most of the film confused about her life with Ted, not wanting to believe he’s a murderer but knowing deep down something is not right.
While showing very little of the murders, the film does a good job of making you understand that they were absolutely disgusting acts. You can truly empathize with Liz the entire film. Although Bundy wasn’t physically abusive to her, he was very manipulative, relishing in the role of boyfriend and stepfather. The film displays all of these things very well. Also, the public and how they viewed Bundy as a handsome attractive young man. He even was his own defense towards the end of his trial. You see his potential intelligence and brightness that he instead chose to waste.
The film didn’t sit well with me at first, but I soon realized how genius this was. The film could have been a bit more fast-paced, but seeing as it was from Liz’s eyes I understand. Efron gives a very amazing performance as Bundy. Collins is heartbreaking as Liz, you truly feel bad for her. There are also many thoughts that come across the viewer’s mind. At one point, I questioned my own humanity because I actually felt sorry for Bundy. Director Joe Berlinger does a wonderful job of showing you that Ted Bundy was an actual human being and an evil soul at the same time.
Overall, Extremely Wicked is very ambitious. It gets down to some of the psychology of Bundy. They show Bundy’s interactions with his childhood friend Carol Anne Boone (Kaya Scodelario) and his mother Louise Bundy (Forba Shepherd). These two women had Ted’s back until the very end, the film also includes a very powerful speech from Bundy’s mother about his sentence. You feel for each of the women that loved Bundy, but in the end, you know that his evil ways manipulated them into their situations.
The evil atrocities committed by this man have been studied because while everybody has an opinion on what caused him to commit these murders nobody will ever truly know. Screenwriter Michael Werwie does an amazing job putting the film together to help us understand what trauma Liz felt as did many others due to Ted Bundy’s psychotic massacre.
Starring Lily Collins, Zac Efron, and Kaya Scoldelario, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile is streaming now on Netflix!