Arts & Reviews

A New Perspective on an Infamous Serial Killer: “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile” Review

By: Emma Krupp

Who was Theodore Robert Bundy? To many growing up in the 1970s, he was one of the most infamous American serial killers whose trials captured the nation. To some, Bundy was a kidnapper, a murderer, and a pathological liar at heart. However, in Netflix’s new movie “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile,” the audience takes a sharp right turn as Ted Bundy is portrayed as the love filled, passionate and self proclaimed innocent fiancé. The movie, which is named after a real quote by Judge Edward Cowart who presided over Bundy’s final murder trial, was first unveiled at the 2017 Cannes FilmFestival in France. After two years of filming, it was released at the Sundance Film

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Festival in January 2019. Soon after, Netflix bought domestic rights to the film and it opened for streaming on the video platform in early May. Instead of focusing primarily on Bundy, the movie shifts its attention to Elizabeth Kendall (Lily Collins), who was Bundy’s former girlfriend and fiancé at the time of his murder trials. Switching between Bundy’s court trials and Liz’s life at home as she struggles to cope with appearance versus reality, the movie psychologically twists the audience’s mind and their opinion on Bundy for two hours.

 

The movie opens with a scene straight out of a romantic comedy movie. Across a crowded local bar Liz notices that Ted is staring at her and they begin to talk while Liz picks a song from the jukebox. One dance montage later, the two have fallen head over heels for each other and are painted as the “star crossed lovers.” Ted makes breakfast for Liz, he helps her raise her daughter Molly, and he even provides for the family as if it is his own. The pacing of the movie continues rather quickly as Ted is arrested for the first time, with the disappearance of two women near Lake Sammamish, and is picked out of the police lineup. Now, this is the point of the first half of the movie I have decided to call the “I didn’t do it” part. As soon as he is released on bail, Ted returns home to Liz where he

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begins to spew lies to her. He promises her that he took no part in the crime, that his picture was given to the victim before the lineup, and that he is not guilty. A great majority of the movie is just Zac Efron effortlessly repeating the lines, “I didn’t do it” or “I am not guilty.” In fact, it might be the only lines he rehearsed since his character says almost nothing else. Even after being officially charged with murder by the state of Utah and Colorado, Liz refuses to doubt Ted’s words. As the viewer, it is likely you will scream at Liz at least once while watching, because she is stupid enough to believe Ted’s facade.

 

The middle of the movie goes by relatively quickly, mainly due to the two subplots which interact with each other. On one side of the country, Liz is suffering with Ted’s guilty charge and turns to alcohol to tame her inner demons. While Ted consistently continues to call her from jail, she falls into a spiraling out of depression, not knowing who to believe. The other examines Ted in Florida, who is being charged with the vicious murders of two sorority girls from FSU. Some of the best acting by Efron comes in the scene of Ted’s final murder trial, where he famously handled most of the defense team by himself. The court scene is disturbing to watch as the witnesses are called to the stand. Even after watching this movie I went back to watch real footage of the day, since this was the first televised court case, and could not believe the stark similarities between reality and the film. The directors replicated the scene to almost perfection; from Bundy’s outfit to including real quotes by the judge, witnesses, and Bundy himself. Ultimately, in just seven hours, the jury convicts Bundy and he is given the death sentence.

Spoiler free, the ending to this movie will leave any viewer with their mouth hanging open. Although the ending does come full circle, it does so in an impossible to forget suspenseful and disturbing scene perfect for the ending to such a horrific story. Overall, the reason I enjoyed this movie so much was the way it was directed. The screenplay focused in on a new side to the story, Liz’s mental struggles, which has relatively gone unknown in history. While many people know about Bundy’s trials, they do not know how his constant pleading of innocence affected the lives of others around him. At some

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points in the movie, I even caught my mind drifting to the possibility of Bundy being innocent. The way that Efron presented the character made you want to believe Bundy was innocent, which I believe is the strongest quality of this movie. By presenting Ted Bundy’s story in a new light, the writers and directors of “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile” were able to put the audience in Elizabeth Kendall’s shoes and mess with their minds.  

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