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