★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is the Netflix and Sky Cinema distributed biopic centred on infamous American serial killer Ted Bundy who operated in various states during the 1970s. Zac Efron, former alumni of High School Musical and Bad Neighbours, makes his debut into the realm of ‘serious acting’ and convinces as the notorious serial killer, but there’s one thing missing:the actual killing.
Serial Killer or Handsome Dreamboat?
While the film gives us glimpses into Bundy’s sick deeds, there is nowhere nearly enough to paint an accurate picture. Instead, the film chooses to focus solely on the relationship with his girlfriend, the high-profile trial and only at the end manages to give us a scene that actually shows Bundy’s true atrocities. The problem with this is that, while there is no shortage of documentaries and films that detail his crimes to great lengths, a biopic has an obligation to show who it is depicting in the most unbiased light. While watching the film, it was hard to remember that this charming and handsome man was responsible for some of the most gruesome crimes America had even seen. The number of Bundy’s victims is still unknown to this day, but we do know he has confessed to around thirty homicides, all of which were young women, the youngest being just twelve years old.
On the one hand, the biopic is fantastic at reminding us of Bundy’s true manipulation skills and how easy it was to fall for his act. Throughout his trial, women would flock to Bundy, protesting that he was too attractive to do such horrific things to other women, and that’s the point. This man managed to appeal to women, charm them, which ultimately gave him the opportunity to abuse and kill them. As the first nationally televised trial in America, Bundy was undoubtedly a celebrity at the time which he played to perfection. His trial was filled with laughter, uncontrolled schoolgirl giggling and even a marriage proposal. It was clear that Bundy highly enjoyed the attention surrounding him and this film feeds into his need to put on a show, to be on top. While it is important to show this side of things, the film completely disregards the list of victims and almost forgets who it is depicting. A man who was tried for necrophilia, kidnapping and rape – to name a few of his crimes. Strangely, at some points in the film, it seems more believable as a romance film than a biopic.
The Rise of True Crime
Joe Berlinger, the director of the movie, is also responsible for the recently released Netflix docu-series Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. The documentary was heavily romanticised by viewers, which even managed to get a response from Netflix’s official Twitter page discouraging conversation centred around his good looks. Yet Berlinger isn’t the only one to be fascinated by serial killers. There are scores of films, documentaries and books analysing the psyche and modus operandi of a serial killer. Recently, Netflix has capitalised off this allure with TV shows like You and true-crime series like Making a Murderer. However, Bundy seems to be the only one that gets the privilege of being glamorised, even now, over twenty years later.
But the obsession with Ted Bundy is part of a larger conversation about the line between fascination and enamour. While a large portion of the population loves digging into a good true crime story, some forget that these are real stories with real victims. Once that level of belief is overlooked, then an environment that facilitates other feelings arises: making it easier for people to sympathise, become attracted to or even root for the perpetrator. One thing is certain: the real Ted Bundy would have probably loved this film.
Author: Aisha Mohamed