By Chic DiCiccio
True crime is so hot right now. From podcasts to documentaries, there’s an unlimited supply. This includes last year’s Netflix doc, “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,” which was as popular as any have been in recent memory. The creator of that documentary, Joe Berlinger, decided that four hours in Bundy’s world wasn’t enough and has brought more crazy to Netflix with the biographical flick, “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Vile and Evil.”
Thankfully, Berlinger and screenwriter Michael Werwie spare us from repulsive recreations of Bundy’s crimes. Unfortunately, they also refrain from anything truly compelling or thrilling. While Zac Efron absolutely abandons all of his inherent likability and disappears into Bundy, the rest of the movie is flat and doesn’t offer any insight whatsoever.
Apparently, Berlinger’s goal was to show this story from Liz Kendall’s (Lily Collins) point of view. Liz and her young daughter, Molly, lived with Bundy for several years while he committed several crimes without her knowledge. The movie begins in 1969 when they each lived in Seattle and inexplicably jumps to 1975 when Bundy was arrested for attempted kidnapping in Utah.
Bundy pleads with Liz that he’s not guilty of the crime and even when he’s convicted, she advocates for him. For a movie that is allegedly about Liz, it sure does a horrendous job of explaining exactly why she sticks with him. It gets even more inexplicable once Bundy is extradited to Colorado for a murder charge.
At the very least, the Colorado section of the movie is fantastic as it details Bundy’s shockingly easy escape from the Pitkin County Courthouse. It’s not exactly a spoiler since everyone knows where he ends up, but once he’s apprehended, Liz finally ditches him.
At this point, the movie goes through the motions and cuts from scenes of Bundy being creepy and Liz falling deeper into depression and alcoholism. She finds some solace in a new partner, Jerry (Haley Joel Osment), but the constant news cycle that revolves around Bundy only furthers her poor mental state.
If Liz’s feelings can’t be explained, it’s downright impossible to explain the relationship that begins in a Florida prison between Bundy and Carole Ann Boone (Kaya Scodelario). If it actually didn’t happen, there’s no way that you’d ever believe it.
All of this is quite boring and procedural. It was a smart decision to not show any of Bundy’s murders as not to glorify them, but there’s no sense of dread.
It would take a highly skilled filmmaker to turn this into a truly terrifying watch and this team isn’t up for the task.
However, Efron is darkly disturbing. All the creepiness of the movie comes from his performance and his smile maxes out the ick factor. Even when he’s being charming, Efron is menacing without being arrogant. It’s truly a breakout performance that shows there’s a character actor in there somewhere.
The final scene tries to wrap up both Liz’s story and finally show Bundy’s true self, as if the audience is exposed to it once she is. But we know the story. There’s no grand revelation or surprise and “Extremely Wicked, Shocking Vile and Evil” just crawls to an end. The only good execution in this movie is the one that ends Bundy’s life.