Audiences were given the opportunity to learn more about serial killer Ted Bundy when Netflix released Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes directed by Joe Berlinger. The limited series was four episodes long, using real footage, photographs, audio recordings and interviews. However, Berlinger decided to also create a documentary style biopic of Ted Bundy, entitled Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.
The film is unique in that its focus is on Bundy’s girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, and her denial to Bundy’s crimes. The film was based on Kloepfer’s book, The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy. Berlinger’s task with creating the film was to strictly highlight the events and how seriously twisted Bundy’s entire situation was, without glamorizing Bundy. By also finding a way to incorporate real footage from the Bundy trials, Berlinger showcases Bundy’s truly wicked nature without glamorizing the past.
The focus of the film is what sets it apart from other documentations of Bundy. Not only is there a heavy focus on how Bundy’s trial impacted the lives of Kloepfer and her daughter, Molly, but the entirety of the focus is around his trials, jail time and denial of his crimes. Rather than trying to show Bundy committing all of the crimes, the movie waits until the end of the film to show Bundy’s true confession, which was an extremely interesting take.
Framed in a way with the audience not knowing the actual events, viewers are left wondering almost the entire film what Bundy’s sentencing is going to be, and if he is the real killer based on the way he denies his association. The film steers away from tacky killing scenes filled with gore and suspense, and instead plays on Bundy and Kloepfer’s reactions to build the tension.
By far the greatest aspect of the fim is the casting. Each character is perfectly casted, starting with Zac Efron’s horrifyingly charming portrayal of Bundy. One of the most talked about aspects of Bundy’s trial was how many couldn’t believe he was the killer, because of how charming he appeared. Efron portrays Bundy in such a way that the audience almost wants to believe him, and this portrayal is because the film focuses on Kloepfer’s perspective and wanting the audience to feel how she felt throughout the trial. From an acting standpoint it seems Efron truly exemplifies everything about Bundy because of his effortless charm and poignant portrayal.
Due to the emphasis on Kloepfer’s perspective, casting her character in the film was incredibly important. Lily Collins’ portrayal is haunting and drives the maximum amount of empathy out of the audience. The film and Collins’ performance make audience members feel how Kloepfer felt during the trials, and it’s truly heartbreaking. Of course the other actors and actresses in the film were stellar, including guest appearances from Jim Parsons and John Malkovich, but it’s undoubtedly Efron and Collins steal the show.
The film utilizes the performances of the actors to drive the plot and makes audience members feel nervous, without having to incorporate any real gore or scenes of Bundy’s killings. It’s impressive and distinctive from other horror and thriller films to see a movie truly terrify audiences without overuse of scare tactics, but Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile does exactly that. Overall, with phenomenal performances from its actors, the film is a must-see.