Based on the details written in The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy; a memoir penned by the prolific serial killer's former, long-term girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile has been highly anticipated by the true crime community since Netflix released Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes back in January of this year.
This time round, filmmaker Joe Berlinger transports us back to Seattle in 1969, where Liz Kloepfer (played by Lily Collins) first laid eyes on ''handsome devil'' Ted Bundy (played by Zac Efron). After falling head over heels in love with him, she discovered the monster that lurked beneath the surface, making for an intriguing and mentally demanding portrayal of America's most ''charming'' serial killer.
Disclaimer: Possible spoilers ahead, proceed with caution.
Zac Efron as Ted Bundy
Whether you know him as Disney's teen heartthrob Troy Bolton in the High School Musical trilogy or from his more recent appearances in popular comedy films such as Baywatch, Neighbors 2, and Dirty Grandpa where the actor willingly embodies the stereotypical frat boy persona, one thing's for sure, you've never seen this side of Zac Efron before.
As a charismatic sex symbol, many people shared their fears that Efron's portrayal of Ted Bundy would further glorify the killer, thus giving Bundy the stage he always wanted. In reality, selecting Zac has probably had the reverse effect. By using his reputation as a lovable actor, Efron depicts the tactics used by Bundy to prey on his 30 plus victims while convincing others of his innocence and even winning over the judge who harboured ''no animosity'' toward him in his final hearing.
Not only was the star transformed into a convincing lookalike through the use of fake teeth, a wig, and a strictly no-carb diet, but he also managed to nail the mannerisms and speech patterns of the serial murderer by studying the footage of his trial and the infamous tapes which have captured the interest of millions.
The Subtle Lighting Changes Make The Film
As with any film, lighting is key for setting the tone and mood for each scene, and Extremely Wicked is no exception. In fact, the subtle lighting changes made throughout the film are used for a variety of reasons, including to show a contrast in the mental stability of Liz Kloepfer.
The film starts off with a light and airy 70's vibe with yellow/orange undertones, but very quickly the atmosphere begins to darken when the realisation hits Liz that Ted is not the man she thought he was...
Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead.
With the mutilated bodies of young women turning up across seven states and a sketch of a man who bears an eerie resemblance to her fiance is shown as a suspect, Liz visibly battles with her love for the charming, charismatic man who has been there for her and her daughter Molly; and the man who has committed these sickening crimes.
Racked with guilt over a decision she made, Liz turns towards alcohol which quickly spirals into an obvious addiction and leaves her relationships with her friends, family and new boyfriend fragmented.
It is during these parts of the film, and the times we see Bundy behind bars that the colouration of the scenes takes on a greyish/blue tinge which further hints at the fact Elizabeth's bubble has been well and truly burst.
If You're Looking For Gore, You've Picked The Wrong Movie
One thing worth noting is that if you're relying on Extremely Wicked to fulfill your desires for a typical slasher type horror film, you'll be sorely disappointed. While there are plenty of violent descriptions included as well as images from Ted Bundy's real life crime scenes (especially during the trial), there is an obvious lack of actual brutality which as it turns out, was completely intentional.
Joe Berlinger's decision to leave out what he deemed as both unnecessary and disrespectful to the real victims, in my opinion added something deeply important to this film.
Without seeing the violence first hand, it became frighteningly clear just how easily Bundy could manipulate the judge, law enforcement officers and even the swarms of women who supported him until the very end; including Carole Ann-Boone who married him during his trial despite the heinous crimes he was being convicted for
Even as a viewer who is well researched on the crimes of this notorious killer, I found myself questioning his innocence for a moment before snapping back to reality, and for me this ''gaslighting'' effect hugely impacted my feelings on the film.
The Final Scene
Perhaps one of the most hard-hitting scenes in the entire film came right at the end. In the final scene set ten years later, Lily Collins' character Liz decides to visit Bundy on death row in a bid to receive closure for everything she went through due to his actions. It is at this point she admits to being the one who gave his name to the police way back in 1974 which ultimately led to his arrest, but most importantly she wanted him to admit his guilt.
In real life, this all-important conversation didn't take place face-to-face and instead the pair spoke over the phone, but the team decided the effect would be more chilling and dramatic if it was done in the way that it was. How right they were.
At first, Bundy denies his crimes and claims that he is only admitting to the multiple murders in order to avoid execution. This time around, Liz sees through his lies and forces him to look at the beheaded corpse of one of his victims before asking what happened to her head.
Again, Bundy tries brushing off any blame by suggesting animals had been the ones to remove her head but upon seeing his former flame's disbelieving stare, he uses his finger to write ''HACKSAW'' on the glass, shattering any doubt she (or anyone) had that he is the monster she media showed him to be.
Extremely Wicked is more than just a reenactment of Ted Bundy's crimes. Instead, Zac Efron's authentic portrayal of this infamous serial killer leaves us questioning whether or not diagnosed psychopath's have the ability to love anyone other than themselves, and if not, was it only a matter of time before Elizabeth Kloepfer became his next victim?
Even for those who already think they know everything there is to know about this killer, Extremely Wicked offers a mostly accurate look inside the romance between Liz and Ted with very few slight tweaks added for dramatic effect. The film also serves as a chilling reminder that looks can be deceiving.
For me, the movie was incredibly well thought out and true to the facts (for the most part anyway) while maintaining a sensitive approach towards the victims and their families. The research and dedication put in by the cast is obvious to anyone who has watched the Bundy tapes and in the end the result was exceptional.
As always, I hope you have enjoyed this review. Remember to take part in the polls and if you have anything you want to share feel free to do so in the comments section below!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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