Movie Review: “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
On the surface, Ted Bundy (Zac Efron) is an ordinary, albeit charismatic, man. He is a studious law student, has a girlfriend who he loves dearly, and is great with his girlfriend’s daughter. However, his girlfriend, Liz (Lily Collins), begins to suspect there might be something more sinister to Ted’s story when she notices a shocking resemblance between him and the sketch of a murder suspect. Despite the arrest and all of the accusations, Ted Bundy maintains his innocence.
Ted Bundy claims the accusations are based on coincidence rather than evidence. He claims that law enforcement is taking the lazy way out by condemning someone who happens to resemble a description of the suspect. What initially seemed like an easy case for Ted to win begins to look worse and worse for him as members of law enforcement from other cities begin trying to connect him to some of their open cases. Through it all, Ted Bundy maintains his innocence, maintains hope that Liz will not lose faith in him, and maintains hope that he and Liz will be together again. Liz, however, begins to see who Ted really is, yet she loves him anyway so she clings to the idea that he is telling the truth. Despite their hope, it will not be easy to brush off these extremely wicked, shockingly evil and vile accusations.
The Pros & Cons
Zac Efron (+8pts)
The Protagonist (-5pts)
Ted Bundy (+6pts)
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (-6pts)
Lily Collins (+6pts)
Pro: Zac Efron (+8pts)
The writing for the character was mostly one-dimensional. I will get into all the things that I liked and disliked about this portrayal of Ted Bundy throughout this review, but Zac Efron undoubtedly did a great job with this movie. Unfortunately, I thought the filmmakers could have done a better job with this character. Fortunately, Zac Efron was able to add some depth, but I cannot help but think that he could have done so much more with this character, had he been given the material to do so.
Zac Efron played into Ted Bundy‘s charismatic nature. Despite what we know about Ted Bundy, Zac Efron played the character in a way that will make you want to sympathize with the character. You will need to keep reminding yourself that this is Ted Bundy and deserves no level of sympathy, but Zac Efron’s portrayal did a great job of making me temporarily forget what I knew about Ted Bundy. Part of what made Ted Bundy so dangerous was his charisma and his intellect. Had he not had these qualities, he would not have been able to get away with what he had done for so long. In telling this story, it was important to bring those qualities to the character. It is no small feat, however, to make the audience temporarily forget what they knew about the monster, but this movie did just that. Zac Efron brought a lot to this role, and pulled off an incredibly complicated and dramatic performance.
Con: The Protagonist (-5pts)
Unfortunately, the focus of this story felt a bit off. It was hard to tell who the primary protagonist was supposed to be. The filmmakers seemed to switch back and forth between Ted Bundy and Liz. In some areas, the protagonist was definitely Ted Bundy, but the filmmakers left out some pretty significant and horrific parts of his story (which I will get into later). For these sections of the movie, the filmmakers decided to switch the primary protagonist by focusing on Liz. It made the movie hard to get behind, as it was hard to support Ted Bundy (for obvious reasons), but Liz definitely did not get enough focus as the primary protagonist of this story (as she probably should have been).
Pro: Ted Bundy (+6pts)
In knowing what we know now, it is easy (and incredibly accurate) to label Ted Bundy as a “monster”. However, it would be wrong to deny that the guy had charisma. There is a reason he had the opportunity to do the horrific things that he did. On the surface, he was likable, and I liked that the filmmakers incorporated that into this movie.
For one, it made the movie more realistic. On top of that, it is what makes people like Ted Bundy so terrifying. What is scarier, an obviously evil person or an evil person that is able to disguise themselves as a good guy? This movie did a great job of making Ted Bundy seem decent, despite everything we know, and it made the movie far more compelling because I was able to put myself in the shoes of those that he deceived.
Con: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (-6pts)
I liked that the filmmakers humanized Ted Bundy, as it showed how convincing he was and how he was able to do what he did. However, the filmmakers lost sight of the extremely wicked, shockingly evil and vile nature of his story. This is without a doubt the most important part of Ted Bundy’s story. The filmmakers knew that, otherwise the movie would have been named something different, but they seemed unable or unwilling to show the terrible things that he did. I get not wanting to glorify his actions, but the filmmakers dropped the ball here. His actions were horrific, but I did not feel that horror in this movie. By not showing what he did, the filmmakers delivered a Ted Bundy story that felt very much disconnected from Ted Bundy’s horrific actions (which made it feel like an inaccurate depiction of this story, even though it was accurate in some ways).
Pro: Lily Collins (+6pts)
I thought Lily Collins did a really good job with this role. She played a woman who fell in love with Ted Bundy, then was slowly forced to come to terms with who he really is. At first, she is in denial, as anyone would be if they found out someone they loved did something terrible. From there, her character started going through quite a bit of growth and began to lose her sanity as she tried to wrap her head around everything she heard about someone she loved. I think that the filmmakers could have done a better job of focusing on Liz’ story (I honesty believe she should have been the main character, instead of splitting that responsibility), which would have made her character’s growth feel more natural while also solving some of the film’s other problems. That being said, the character goes on an emotional rollercoaster, and I thought that Lily Collins did a really good job of portraying all of the complicated and emotional thoughts that were going on inside her character’s head. The movie was far from perfect, but Lily Collins was easily one of its strengths.
Con: Innocence (-8pts)
Okay, so I had a lot of fun during this movie. The story focused on depicting Ted Bundy as if he were innocent, in an attempt to make the audience question his guilt. The filmmakers did a good job of making him feel like the movie’s innocent. I watched the movie with my girlfriend and would periodically say things like “he’s a good guy, isn’t he?”, “I think we may have had this guy all wrong?”, and “are we sure he did it?”. There was even a scene where Ted Bundy made breakfast for Liz and her daughter, in which I said “see, thats what I want. I want to be just like Ted Bundy”.
All of my remarks were definitely just jokes with the intent of getting my girlfriend riled up, and it worked pretty well. I enjoyed doing this, but the fact that I was able to do it for so much of the film‘s duration, shows that the filmmakers failed to tell this story properly. How can you tell Ted Bundy’s story, from Ted Bundy’s point of view, without making it obvious that he was one hundred percent guilty of the horrific things he was accused of? In order to do that, you have to ignore all of the horrific things and just pretend Ted Bundy may be innocent. By doing this, the filmmakers ignored half of Ted Bundy’s story and delivered what felt like a fictionalized version of the story. They could have had quick point-of-view scenes that showed the horrific crimes, but did not show his face (maintaining the filmmakers’ desired mystery), or they could have done literally anything other than ignore the horrific crimes all together. The filmmakers aimed to deliver a dramatized true story, but by ignoring some pretty significant moments in Ted Bundy's story, it felt like the filmmakers missed their mark with this one.
Grade: C- (74pts)
I was pretty hopeful going into this movie. I liked the idea of telling Ted Bundy’s story by playing into his charismatic nature, but I felt like the filmmakers leaned into that a little too heavily, while ignoring the horrific things that Ted Bundy did. I find it hard to believe that anyone watching this movie will ever believe the guy was innocent, so why spend so much of the movie pretending he was? This movie definitely had potential, but I felt that the filmmakers missed their intended target (which was to tell an accurate and dramatized version of Ted Bundy's story, by playing into his charisma as well as his monstrous nature) by quite a bit.
In a movie named Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, I found it weird that the filmmakers glazed over the wicked, skipped over the evil, and ignored the vile. Fortunately, the performances from Zac Efron and Lily Collins were really strong, which saved the movie (albeit minimally) for me. Zac Efron did a fantastic job of playing into the character’s charisma, while always making it feel like there might be something sinister under the surface. Lily Collins played a character who hears horrific accusations of someone she loves. She denies it at first but goes on an emotional and depressing mental journey, as she struggles to face the truth. Both were complicated characters, but both Zac Efron and Lily Collins crushed their respective roles. The performances made the movie watchable, and the story had potential, I just felt that the filmmakers failed to tell this complicated story properly.