Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Incredibly Wicked
Zac Efron as Ted Bundy and Lily Collins as Elizabeth Kendall. Photo courtesy IMDb.

If, like me, one of your guilty pleasures is true crime, there’s a double-header on Netflix for you right now: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile and Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. Both are about Ted Bundy, the notorious serial killer who committed at least 30 homicides in seven states between 1974 and 1978. (In my own defense: I’m not someone who’s obsessed with serial killer stories, but I do find Bundy’s tale compelling because he was active in my hometown during my childhood, so there’s a local connection for me.)

Conversations with a Killer is a documentary featuring taped interviews with the murderer when he was on death row, and Extremely Wicked (the title is a verbatim quote from the judge at Bundy’s trial in Florida) is a fiction film based on the memoir of Bundy’s former girlfriend, Elizabeth Kendall (her pen name). Both films are directed by Joe Berlinger.

Zac Efron plays Bundy in Extremely Wicked and also served as one of the film’s executive producers. Perhaps that explains why the movie, which is billed as focusing on Bundy’s story from Liz Kendall’s point of view, actually spends more time examining the enigmatic, charismatic Bundy. Lily Collins is solid as Kendall, but her somewhat bland character can’t compete with Efron’s charming sociopath, and Efron does a great job as the magnetic Bundy. Some reviews have criticized the film for glamorizing Bundy and taking a too-sympathetic view of him, and I have to agree. But if you’re going to watch it, be sure to stick around for the prison confession scene at the end, when Bundy finally admits to Kendall — after years of denials — that he’s guilty of the crimes for which he’s imprisoned. The handling of that moment is deeply chilling and very effective.

It’s been a few months since I watched Conversations, but I remember it was a riveting look into Bundy’s history and his depraved, calculating mind. (Utah natives will get a kick out of the inaccurate scenery used for various Utah locations in the documentary.) If you’re interested in Ted Bundy and are choosing between Extremely Wicked or Conversations, I recommend the latter.

Ted Bundy: You fell in love with a weirdo.

Liz Kendall: I did. I fell in love with a weirdo.

Ted Bundy: That makes you weird, just by association.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

7 thoughts on “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”

  1. I have heard that while he was in Utah, Bundy joined the LDS Church to better blend in and gain trust, and that when he was arrested members of his LDS ward were convinced he had been wrongly accused. Does that come up in the documentary or fiction film? It seems like he was very skilled at manipulating and putting on the charm to hide the shocking evil that was there underneath.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think Bundy’s joining the church was covered in the documentary, but not the movie.

    And I’m right there with you, Alyssa. As a bit of a true-crime junkie, I have watched both the Bundy movie and the documentary, and I agree that “Confessions” was more compelling. I raised my daughter in the “High School Musical” era, and it was hard for me not to see Troy Bolton (Zac Efron’s HSM character) peeking out from behind what I did think was a really good acting job in the movie.

    For me, watching the documentary was cathartic in some way. It made Bundy more “human”—in the worst possible way. Growing up in Salt Lake, I also had the impression of Bundy as a sort of sexy bogeyman, something like Benedict Cumberbatch-does-Dracula. But the person that ultimately emerged on the tapes was nothing more than a grotesque, evil, self-centered, arrogant, mean, and ultimately tiresome and irritating human being, who just happened to get lucky in the looks and brains departments. I remember one of the interviewers referring to him as “a piece of human garbage”, and someone he just wanted to forget about entirely. I think we force ourselves to grudgingly admire Ted, or assign palatable abilities to him, because it makes it a bit easier to deal with the fact that, like Elizabeth Kendall, any of us could have been taken in by him.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s