Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile: Film Review

Many films have been made about notorious American serial killer Ted Bundy, who confessed to killing 30 women across several states in the 1970s (although it is expected to be many more) and so Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile goes for a fresh perspective – that of his longtime girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer, based on her book.

The story begins with Liz (Lily Collins) falling in love with Ted (Zac Efron), who she meets in a Seattle bar. He instantly becomes part of her family, with her daughter Mollie, and their relationship is eventually tested when he is jailed for aggravated kidnapping in Utah. Liz stands by his side and believes him when he claims he is innocent but soon starts to doubt him when he is accused of more heinous crimes.

Because the film is told from Liz’s viewpoint it means we don’t witness the majority of what Bundy is accused of. I get that this is well-covered ground and has been shown in previous Bundy movies but since I haven’t seen any of them I felt like his crimes were being glossed over and he was being humanised too much, like it was focussing more on him being a happy family man than the evil murderer he was. However, once you reach the ending, this makes sense because this is based on Liz’s perspective and that’s how she saw him for a long time. It’s only when she stops believing that we begin to see more of what he’s done.

By this point Bundy is in jail in Florida, having escaped prison in Utah and Colorado, and on trial for killing two college students and the attempted killing of three more. It was more interesting for me as a newbie to the Bundy story to learn about his crimes – this is what I had been waiting for the movie to show – but it also meant that Liz’s perspective was pretty much dropped in favour of recreating the trial as it was broadcast on TV at the time – with Jim Parsons as his prosecutor and John Malkovich as the judge (who utters the words that make the title) – as well as Bundy’s fight to prove his innocence and his relationship with soon to be wife Carol Ann Boone (Kaya Scodelario). It goes back to Liz every so often but she isn’t given much to do except cry and drink alcohol to the dismay of her friend Joanna (Angela Sarafyan) and boyfriend Jerry (Haley Joel Osment).

When Efron was cast as Bundy there were a lot of headlines about it and I can see why. I know Bundy was supposed to be handsome and charming but Efron is way too good-looking to believably play the role. He never truly convinced me, even with the 70s wig and bad teeth. However, he was properly captivating and I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He certainly had the charisma and you can see why women believed him when he said he was innocent. I kept waiting for him to switch and become menacing and look like a psychopath but he never really did. I guess that’s what makes it more unbelievable and chilling, particularly in his final scene with Liz, when she demands him to confess while awaiting the death penalty.

Collins gives one of the best performances of her career but is reduced to a stock character in the latter half and only gets to truly shine at the pivotal scene at the end. Osment is given hardly anything to do and I struggle to see Parsons as anything other than Sheldon Cooper. Scodelario played a very interesting, complex character and I liked what she did with it and Malkovich was excellent in his small yet pivotal judge role.

As you can probably tell from all the above, I had a lot of complicated feelings about the movie because it was not what I wanted it to be. I appreciate that they wanted to tell a new, lesser-known angle but I really just wanted the standard serial killer movie with Efron going a bit psycho, but that never happened. I kept waiting for us to see the crimes instead of just hearing about them for context. It’s a bit long, it’s a bit funnier than it probably should be and didn’t feel like the tone/angle was quite right but the payoff at the end was chilling, well staged and extremely satisfying.

In selected cinemas and on Sky Cinemas from Friday 3rd May 

(Rating: 3/5)

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