Entertainment, Extremely Wicked Shockingly Evil And Vile, Movies, Sundance 2019, Zac Efron

Zac Efron’s ‘Extremely Wicked’ is shockingly pointless: Review

Zac Efron as Ted Bundy, Macie Carmosino as Molly, and Lily Collins as Liz Kendall in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.

Image: Brian Douglas / Sundance Institute

If Ted Bundy’s real secret weapon was his charm, which helped him reassure people who should’ve been suspicious of him and win over people who should’ve hated him, count Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile as just another to fall under his spell.

Directed by Joe Berlinger, who also helmed the upcoming Netflix docuseries Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, Extremely Wicked starts out looking like a fresh perspective on the notorious serial killer, with his girlfriend Liz Kendall (Lily Collins) as his way in. 

But that angle never quite gels, in large part because Extremely Wicked can’t seem to resist cutting back to Bundy, seeing what Bundy’s been up to, checking how Bundy’s feeling lately, watching what awful but fascinating stunt Bundy has pulled now. 

Bundy’s twisted glamour is only heightened by the casting of heartthrob Zac Efron, who puts in a solid effort but never quite manages to transcend the “Zac Efron playing Ted Bundy” of it all, perhaps because the film never quite gets around to showing us why we’re revisiting Bundy in the first place. 

The script, by Michael Werwie, too often tells when it should be showing, particularly when it comes to Liz. When a frustrated friend asks Liz what it is about Ted that keeps her fixated on him, I found myself wondering the same thing. 

The others in Ted’s orbit, including Carol Anne Boone (Kaya Scodelario) and his female fans, don’t even get that much. Extremely Wicked gives their motivations and perspectives barely any consideration at all. As excited as this film is by Ted’s apparently innate magnetism, it’s mostly uninterested in exploring why any of his victims or admirers were drawn to him.

Extremely Wicked is at its most interesting when it reaches Bundy’s 1979 trail – but here, again, the film seems content to just play it straight. The trial is painstakingly recreated here, and just in case you aren’t familiar enough with the real thing to be impressed by how close the movie comes, actual TV footage from that trial is shown over the credits. 

What’s so frustrating about Extremely Wicked is that it flies past so many opportunities to find something new or interesting in the Bundy story. I’d have loved to spend more time with Liz to better understand how she must have felt going through all of this, for example, or to sit with his fans and see why they were so drawn to him. 

Instead, Extremely Wicked settles for glamorizing, yet again, a murderer who’s been glamorized enough already. If you’re in the market for a movie where Ted Bundy is extra sexy, I guess Extremely Wicked fits the bill. For anyone who wants something more, this is a skippable misfire.

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