Ted Bundy Movie

Justin Rombough

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The title of Joe Berlinger’s “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” comes from the post-sentencing remarks of Judge Edward Cowart to Ted Bundy, America’s most notorious serial killer. Cowart called the killings “extremely wicked, shockingly evil, vile and the product of a design to inflict a high degree of pain and utter indifference to human life.” What is so interesting about Berlinger’s film is how strongly it resists showing Ted as “wicked” or “evil.” Bundy is never shown committing a crime. The audience is left with only the thought of what horrible things Bundy did. Tevon Tan (11) thinks “Not having Bundy do the murders was good because it would’ve been horrible for the families of the victims.”

“Extremely Wicked” starts in -Ted Bundy’s long-time girlfriend- Elizabeth’s point of view. A single mother, Liz expresses to a friend her insecurities about finding a man. A predator like Ted Bundy is quick to sniff out insecure women like Liz. She meets him at a bar, and he charms her. She then brings him home. The next morning, Liz finds him in the kitchen with her baby daughter, and he’s making breakfast, wearing a yellow apron. Liz can’t believe it. Everything seems too good to be true. “Extremely Wicked” mixes Liz’s point of view with Bundy’s, but there are some crucial differences in approach. Berlinger puts us inside Liz’s growing terror that she’s been living with the guy who maybe did the horrible things she’s seeing on the news. Their happy relationship, shown in home movie footage, is intercut with extant local news reports of girls gone missing in the area, girls showing up dead, two abductions in broad daylight. The police sketch released to the public looks kind of like her boyfriend, but Liz can’t be sure. Berlinger follows Bundy, too, but in the Bundy sequences, we only see his outer behavior, what he does. Micaiah Butts (11) says “I like that we see it from multiple perspectives.”

Efron using his animalistic charm is so disturbing, but it provides the “missing piece” when people ask why and how Bundy’s killings could have happened. Jefrie Lucio (11) thinks “Efron did a really good job being Bundy.” It’s hard to be as charming as Efron is. Efron doesn’t telegraph to the audience Bundy’s sinister motives, he does not distance himself from Bundy’s charm. There are moments when Efron looks so much like Bundy (especially with the beard), it is truly eerie, but it’s more than just an outer transformation. Occasionally, there is a brief glimpse on his face of what Bundy’s victims probably saw in their final moments. But Efron is in charge of when and how we get to see it. Ted Bundy was executed in Florida on January 24, 1989, making this year the 30th anniversary of his death. In January, “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” dropped on Netflix, a four-part documentary also directed by Berlinger, featuring Bundy’s 1980 tape-recorded conversations with two journalists while on death row. Many seemed disturbed at the focus on Bundy’s looks. A month or so later, the first trailer for “Extremely Wicked” dropped, and the online reaction was negative. According to critics, the trailer glorified Bundy. These conversations were basically replicating the media firestorm back in the 1970s, when the horror of Ted Bundy’s killing spree became known. Women showed up in court for his trial giggling like they were at a Justin Bieber concert. If you want to understand why Ted Bundy got away with what he did for as long as he did, watch Efron flirt with Collins in the scene where the characters first meet. Look for signs of Bundy’s malevolence. Squint for evidence of his evil. You won’t find it. Neither did Liz. That’s why it’s terrifying.

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