In Brief: Fascinated by Ted Bundy? Still? Even if you are, you’ll find this one disappointing.
Every year one or two movies will pique the interest of my readers and I’ll get lots of correspondence asking me about the film. Most of this year’s queries are about this Ted Bundy biopic.
Taking into account that Bundy was a total monster, and that it’s hard to fathom the continuing fascination with his life, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile has very few positives. One is Zac Efron’s portrayal of the killer. It is spot on. He has the look and the mannerisms down. Efron even manages to mimic Bundy’s insincerity.
Early in his career Efron got tabbed as a pretty boy and as not all that talented an actor. He’s actually a very good actor, and once in awhile manages to land a deeper than average role. This isn’t to say that Bundy was all that deep. And it’s not saying this movie is all that deep either.
His performance, however, is quite good.
Another positive is the supporting performances. Lily Collins (Mirror Mirror) is exceptional as Bundy’s emotionally tortured girlfriend Liz Kendall. Kaya Scodelario is also notable as Bundy’s (betcha didn’t know he had one) wife, Carole Anne Boone. Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons gets a break from comedy and dumb commercials and steps into a more mature role as Bundy’s prosecutor. Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense, Secondhand Lions) stars as Kendall’s after Bundy boyfriend and John Malkovich comes close to stealing the show as Florida Judge Edward Coward.
All — Efron included — are wasted. This Netflix film looks more like a TV movie of the week than a major motion picture. It’s a big disappointment and will leave you wanting more. Or worse, make you wish you hadn’t watched it in the first place.
Part of that reason has to do with the film’s creators.
Extremely Wicked is directed by Joe Berlinger and is based Kendall’s 1988 book The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy. That relationship, his crimes and trials led to her depression, alcoholism and the book.
Berlinger is a documentarian known for documenting famous murders and murderers. He’s a Bundy expert and did a fascinating documentary on him called Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. He is not accustomed to doing movies with actual actors.
The film’s title pretty much describes Bundy’s character. In fact, they’re the exact words Coward used when he sentenced Bundy to die in the electric chair in 1979. Four-plus decades later, I use those same words to impose a different kind of death sentence. In this case the death sentence involves the movie.
A major difference is — unlike the decade it took for Florida to kill Bundy — it didn’t take me 10-years to execute the sentence.
Director: Joe Berlinger
Stars: Zac Efron, Lily Collins, Kaya Scodelario, Jim Parsons, John Malkovich, Haley Joel Osment, Angela Sarafyan, James Hetfield, Dylan Baker
Ted Bundy was a total monster who brutally murdered women and gamed the system for a couple of decades until he was not-so-shockingly shocked to death in Florida’s electric chair. Zac Efron works but little else does. This one gets fried, too but this time by Friday Flicks with Gary and it gets a 2 on the 0 to 5 scale.
You can see Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile on Netflix.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.