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Movie Review: “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Netflix Release: 5/3/2019

Netflix Release: 5/3/2019

Synopsis

On the surface, Ted Bundy (Zac Efron) is an ordinary, albeit charismatic, man. He is a studious law student, he has a girlfriend who he loves dearly, and he 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 high-profile 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 also claims that law enforcement is taking the lazy way out by condemning someone who just coincidentally resembles the description of the suspect. However, what initially seemed like an easy case for Ted to win, the case 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, he maintains hope that Liz will not lose faith in him, and he maintains hope that he and Liz will be together again. Liz, however, begins to see Ted for who really is, yet she loves him anyway, so she clings to the idea that he is telling the truth, because she does not want to believe he is responsible for the horrific things he is being accused of. Despite their hope, it will not be easy to brush off these extremely wicked, shockingly evil and vile accusations.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Zac Efron (+8pts)

The Protagonist (-5pts)

Ted Bundy (+6pts)

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (-8pts)

Lily Collins (+6pts)

Innocence (-8pts)

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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 the role. He 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. Nonetheless, Zac Efron effectively played into Ted Bundy‘s charismatic nature, and it made this movie inherently interesting.

Despite what we know about Ted Bundy now, 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 was the Ted Bundy and that the man is deserving no level of sympathy, but Zac Efron’s portrayal and his ability to make us want to sympathize with the character played into what made Ted Bundy so dangerous. He was dangerous, because of 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 screen. It is no small feat to make audiences even momentarily sympathize with a character that they know is undeniably evil and monstrous, but Zac Efron managed to do just that.

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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, as the filmmakers seemed to switch back and forth between Ted Bundy and Liz. In some areas, the primary 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 instead. 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 to be the primary protagonist of this story, as she probably should have been.

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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 was a reason that 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, because they can be hiding among us. What is scarier: an obviously evil person or an evil person that is able to disguise themselves as good? This movie did a great job of making Ted Bundy seem decent, despite everything we know, and it made the movie compelling, because I was able to put myself in the shoes of those that he deceived.

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Con: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (-8pts)

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, which was 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 I thought 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 a dumbed down version of what really happened.

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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, and who was then slowly forced to come to terms with who he really was. At first, she was 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 she began to lose her sanity as she tried to wrap her head around all the horrific things she heard about Ted. I think that the filmmakers could have done a better job of focusing on Liz’ story—I honesty believe she should have been the undeniable main character—which would have made her character’s growth feel more natural while also solving some of the movie’s other problems. That being said, the character went on an emotional roller-coaster, and I thought that Lily Collins effectively portrayed 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.

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Con: Innocence (-8pts)

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 innocent, even though we knew very well that he was not. However, I thought the filmmakers dragged this out much longer than they should have. No one watching this movie will be watching it completely ignorant to who Ted Bundy really was. We knew he was a monster going into this movie, yet the filmmakers spent the majority of this movie's duration pretending that he was not, as if anyone in the audience would be fooled.

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? Would it not have been more fascinating to show the two sides of Ted Bundy, showing both the monster and the charmer? This would have let us see the horrible things he did, it would have made us want to see justice served, but it also would have showed how deceiving he was, which would have had the audience both infuriated and captivated by seeing him keep justice at bay for as long as he did. By spending so much of this movie pretending Ted Bundy was innocent—when everyone watching would know he was not—it made the majority of this movie feel pointless.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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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. They seemed to gloss over the horrific things that Ted Bundy did, as if those things were not an extremely important part of his story. I find it hard to believe that anyone watching this movie would ever believe the guy was innocent, so why spend so much of the movie pretending he was?

In a movie named Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, I found it weird that the filmmakers glossed over the wicked, skipped over the evil, and ignored the vile. Fortunately, the performances from Zac Efron and Lily Collins were really strong, which made the movie watchable. 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 heard horrific accusations of someone she loved, and who wanted to believe with every fiber in her being that those accusations were not true. Both were complicated characters, and both Zac Efron and Lily Collins crushed their respective roles. The performances made the movie watchable, and the story had potential, but the filmmakers seemed to struggle with how to properly tell this story.

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