‘People don’t realise that murderers do not come out in the dark with long teeth and saliva dripping off their chin…’
I’d like to begin, if I may, with the title. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. It’s too damn long. It’s clunky. It’s difficult to remember. Everyone involved in it should be put in a bag and kicked for all eternity. Why not just call this movie Bundy for chrissakes? Anyway…
We all know the story by now. Ted Bundy (Zac Efron) has it all. Good looking, intelligent, charismatic… unfortunately, he is also a violent serial killer and rapist with at least 30 victims to his name across three states. He’s efficient if nothing else. Bundy seems to have a way with women as evidenced by his ability to hold down two long term relationships alongside murderous rampages. His first main squeeze is Liz Kendall (Lily Collins) whose autobiography this whole film is based on, before Bundy marries and impregnates Carol Ann Boone (Kaya Scodelario). He got a lot done when you consider that he was absolutely insane.
Bundy is all up in everyone’s grill right now because of the hugely successful Netflix documentary Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. The latter shares a director with Extremely Wicked… in the shape of Joe Berlinger – a man who has made a career out of murder documentaries. And that segways nicely in my next point. Should we feel bad about deriving entertainment out of the misery of others? Is it morally wrong to explore the human side of a callous monster like Ted Bundy? Not for me. It is human nature to shine a light into the darkest corners of society and as Dread Pirate Roberts so succinctly put it in The Princess Bride – ‘life is pain princess’. To ignore the insidious sections of our psyche is to ignore life itself. It might not be what you wanna here but it’s goddamn true.
Anyway. Back to the movie. The casting of former teen star Zac Efron raised some eyebrows pre-production but actually he is excellent throughout Extremely Wicked… often encapsulating the real Ted Bundy with an eerie accuracy that almost brings to mind Dominic West’s chilling portrayal of Fred West in Appropriate Adult. His co-stars shine too with Lily Collins excellent and John Malkovich having the time of his life as the Judge who tried Bundy and remarkably referred to him as ‘a bright young man’.
Some have complained about the lack of violence in Extremely Wicked… and while it does seem odd to limit the most defining thing about Bundy to the sidelines, this is not a horror film. Joe Berlinger has produced something more akin to a character study and this allows Extremely Wicked… to be a step up from some of its trashier peers.
This isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination and it very much feels like a small part of the Bundy jigsaw puzzle. That being said it is well made, well acted and suitably chilling. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile must go down as a success despite it’s stupid title.