‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’ arrives only months after director Joe Berlinger’s Netflix series, ‘Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes’. Clearly not content just with his documentary series about the infamous serial killer, Berlinger’s new film dramatises Ted Bundy’s story, based on the memoir by Bundy’s former girlfriend, Elizabeth Kendall, ‘The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy’.
The film begins with Ted (Zac Efron) and Elizabeth (Lily Collins) meeting & beginning their relationship, and from this point on the film feels a little scattered. It jumps around with the timeline of events and gives little introduction or back story to the individuals focused on. The film also holds back the details about the investigation surrounding Bundy, despite much of his history being public knowledge. However, this will work well for audiences unaware of the investigation’s outcome as they’ll learn about the developments in the case at the same time as the characters in the film do. As a result the film does satisfy as a compelling crime and courtroom drama. It will certainly peak the interest of those viewers who are easily intrigued by these kinds of true crime stories and will serve as a springboard for further exploration into the crimes of Ted Bundy. Wouldn’t it be handy if there was a Netflix documentary series exploring things in more details, oh wait…Berlinger, we see what you’ve done here.
There’s certainly a moral question about some of this dramatisation. Any media based on true crime needs to consider sensitivity and at times ‘Extremely Shocking…’ presents its content with too much of a Hollywood pizazz to it. In some instances sequences are portrayed in a way that seem eager for audiences to side with Bundy or at least entertain his antics during the investigation. When thought about more deeply this is somewhat troublesome as it does on occasion feel like a glamorisation of Bundy’s actions. Much of the fascination that comes with Ted Bundy is as a result of his natural charisma that he demonstrated so strongly during his trial, and with that in mind casting Efron in the role was genius. He’s naturally very charismatic and captures the essence of this side of Bundy excellently. The sensitivity issues come not with this performance as Efron undoubtedly delivers what’s nessecary to bring this character to screen but in the way some scenes and sequences are presented. Efron aside the remaining cast are similarly solid. Lily Collins is great as the conflicted Elizabeth Kendall but more could have been done to show things from her perspective, especially considering the film is based on her memoir.
Nonetheless the cast make for a captivating ensemble who brilliantly bring this real life horror story to the screen with Efron’s leading turn drawing almost all of the attention. There’s definite issues with certain moments of this dramatisation where more mature sensitivity should have been employed but the film does present Bundy’s absurd popularity impressively. The end product is a cleverly executed, intriguing retelling of this infamous true crime saga that knows its audience and appeals to them well.
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 8/10
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