Extremely Wicked Shockingly Evil and Vile Review

The Plot

Handsome and charismatic young law student Ted Bundy becomes the centre of a sensational series of murder trials during the 1970s that suggest he may in fact be a prolific and dangerously violent serial killer, leaving his girlfriend and family struggling to know what to believe.

The Good

Zac Efron has gradually graduated from High School Musical teen stardom to achieve a firmly cemented status as a credible leading man. The impeccably handsome and charismatic star is a surprisingly good fit for Ted Bundy. A million miles away from the silly comedy antics of Bad Neighbours, Dirty Grandpa or Baywatch; in this drama Efron offer audiences a performance that is compelling and subtle. It makes it easy to root for Bundy in the way so many people actually did during his exceedingly public legal battles. It also displays a genuine acting talent that goes well beyond Efron being merely blessed with movie star good looks and a perfectly chiselled physique.

Alongside Efron actress Lily Collins portrays Bundy’s supportive girlfriend. Following their relationship from domestic bliss through a series of increasingly difficult and shocking court cases. Collins does well at portraying the complex mix of emotions faced by a young woman confronted by the possibility that her seemingly perfect partner and surrogate father to her young daughter may perhaps be secretly monstrous. Paired well with Efron she lends the story a fresh perspective to all the previous documentary explorations of the Bundy cases.

Overall the film is well produced with a visual style and authentic attention to detail that does justice to the film’s source material and perfectly captures the spirit of the 1970s and the famous hysteria surrounding the case. Director Joe Berlinger has previously directed the Netflix Ted Bundy documentary series and clearly has a highly detailed knowledge of Bundy’s life. Having already explored the subject at length he was clearly the perfect filmmaker to produce this expertly dramatized account.

The film’s choice to refrain from depicting any of the horrific crimes which Bundy was accused of allows the focus to remain firmly on the extraordinary dynamic between Bundy and those closest to him in his normal life. In a way obviously this refusal to make entertainment out of such violent acts allows he film to avoid allegations that it is merely sensationalising or glamourizing acts of brutality. It keeps the film focused more interestingly on the emotional aspects of the stunning events surrounding Bundy’s long running legal battle.

The Bad

Those familiar with the real life drama and ultimate outcome of the Ted Bundy trials will undoubtedly find the film robbed of an element of suspense. The film’s carefully crafted efforts to keep Bundy’s guilt or innocence as a source of apparent ambiguity will obviously prove less effective to those already familiar with the case.

Likewise audiences hoping to see dramatic depictions of some of the horrific crimes Bundy was accused of will perhaps feel cheated by the film’s deliberate choice to avoid showing any of this ugly violence. While that is a deliberate choice it obviously won’t be welcomed by true crime and horror fans hoping for the adrenalin rush of seeing the actions of an alleged mass murdering monster first hand.

The Ugly Truth

Compelling central performances particularly form leads Zac Efron and lily Collins, combined with riveting real life source material makes for a truly intriguing piece of drama about one of the most notorious cases in modern legal history. The film offers a rounded portrayal of courtroom drama that will admittedly be familiar to many, leaving audiences with thoughtful insights into the true human impact of these events.

Review by Russell Nelson

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