“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” came to Netflix Friday with the daunting task of depicting one of history’s most notorious serial killers, Ted Bundy, a man who captivated the nation with his vicious crimes against women including rape, assault and murder.
Earlier this year, on the 40th anniversary of his death by the electric chair, Netflix released a four-part documentary series called “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” which displayed every ounce of information about the murders Bundy committed. The series was directed by Joe Berlinger, who also directed “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” which shows his commitment to showing the horrors of Bundy.
The film follows the trials Bundy, played perfectly by Zac Efron, endured and his relationship with Liz Kendall, played by Lily Collins, who stood by him through many of his trials and thought him innocent. Rather than focusing on the murders like the documentary series, the film wisely decides to focus on the legal battles of Bundy and doesn’t show his murders. This was done to leave the viewer completely in the dark about Bundy’s crimes and more able to identify with the true protagonist, Liz.
Efron delivers a pitch perfect performance as Bundy and reflects Bundy’s public persona, of a nice man who no one would expect to kill, to a tee. Collins also delivers a powerful portrayal of the girlfriend of a serial killer who goes through all sorts of guilt and emotion as a result of being close to Bundy.
The ending scene with the pair is flawless as the two talk about Ted’s guilt. A variety of supporting actors including Kaya Scodelario, Jim Parsons, Haley Joel Osment and John Malkovich round out the cast and create a powerhouse lineup of characters.
The plot of the film will be the most divisive factor because of its lack of blood. Some who go into a serial killer film will expect the actual killings. Even “Zodiac,” which focused on the journalists and cops hunting the mysterious Zodiac killer, showed the deaths of the five victims. But that’s not this film’s objective.
The film is meant to be a reflection of two people, Bundy and Kendall, as they struggle to claw their way out of prison. While Bundy’s is a physical container, Liz’s is one of the mind, with bars of guilt. The more Bundy slips into his own cell, the more the viewer will want to see Liz let Bundy go.