Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

(2019)

The charming Ted Bundy, also a notorious psychopathic serial killer, is brought to life by Zac Efron (Dirty Grandpa) in this true story told from the perspective of Bundy's girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer (Lily Collins). From Oscar-nominated director Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster).... More

"1969. Ted (Zac Efron) is crazy-handsome, smart, charismatic, affectionate. And cautious single mother Liz Kloepfer (Lily Collins) ultimately cannot resist his charms. For her, Ted is a match made in heaven, and she soon falls head over heels in love with the dashing young man. A picture of domestic bliss, the happy couple seems to have it all figured out … until, out of nowhere, their perfect life is shattered. Ted is arrested and charged with a series of increasingly grisly murders. Concern soon turns to paranoia—and, as evidence piles up, Liz is forced to consider that the man with whom she shares her life could actually be a psychopath." (Sundance Film Festival)Hide

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Flicks Review

When Zac Efron, erstwhile teen heart-throb, was announced as the lead in a Ted Bundy true crime drama, the mere casting felt like a provocation. Picked up by Netflix for a tidy $9 million and accompanied by a cheerfully glib trailer, the project seemed determined to be as inflammatory as possible, the flamboyant logical conclusion to the increasingly fawning true-crime boom.... More

We needn’t have worried: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’s worst offence is being boring.

Directed by documentary-maker Joe Berlinger (also responsible for another Netflix property about Bundy, the docu-series Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes) and starring everyone’s favourite singing jock, Extremely Wicked is based on a memoir by Bundy’s former girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer (here ‘Liz Kendell’), beginning as the pair start a sweetly mundane relationship.

Their romance is interrupted, however, when Bundy is arrested in connection to a kidnapping—and then another and another. Before long he is standing trial for numerous murders and Liz is wondering if her nice boyfriend is too good to be true.

If Efron’s casting seemed like a bold choice, bolder still is the decision Berlinger makes not to depict the infamously gruesome crimes. Instead of violence (of which there is little), Extremely Wicked is most interested in the charisma that allowed Bundy to operate unnoticed for so long.

In a market oversaturated with carelessly rendered images of women’s violent deaths, it’s a sensitive—and unusual—choice, and one that Efron’s stunning, charming, wild-eyed performance more than justifies.

Disappointingly though, even these thoughtful, interesting choices cannot save Extremely Wicked from an overall plodding mediocrity.

Eschewing exploitation but seemingly unsure with what to replace it with, Berlinger gets bogged down in a wikipedia-esque recital of key Bundy moments, ultimately devolving into a tedious courtroom drama. The romance angle feels like a Lifetime movie, while Liz as a central character is a glorified plot device.

Yet while Extremely Wicked provides information rather than insight, Berlinger still deserves credit for, if not reinventing the wheel, suggesting a new template for the ubiquitous true-crime genre. Surprisingly tasteful and occasionally entertaining, Extremely Wicked may not deliver on many of its more interesting promises—but at least it tries.Hide


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The Press Reviews

  • A triumph of sorts for Efron... But it's also a bit of a problem, a further indictment of our serial killer-sick culture that the film, directed by documentarian Joe Berlinger, doesn't reckon with enough. Full Review

  • How is Zac Efron as Bundy? I think he's startlingly good: controlled, magnetic, audacious, committed, and eerily right. Full Review

  • If the narrative film only exists to give us the unsettling sliminess of Efron as Bundy, it won't be a total waste. But it's not much of a movie, either. Full Review

  • While it doesn't quite click fully into the gear it's aiming for, it touches upon some fascinating notions of human nature and boasts a truly impressive performance from Efron. Full Review

  • Berlinger attacks the story in a rough-and-ready style only somewhat more refined than what he employs in documentaries, and the approach feels entirely appropriate. Full Review

  • In fact, the most shocking thing about the film is Efron's remarkably accomplished, fiercely committed performance. Full Review

  • It fails to show us anything about Bundy that isn't already there in archive footage (which also appears at the end of the film), and only scratches the surface of the true depravity its subject was capable of. Full Review

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