Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile came bursting on the scene with a trailer that had me on the edge of outrage and morbid curiosity. The preview from Voltage Pictures boasted hard rock music with screaming guitar riffs, jump cuts between dramatic moments, teases of violent acts, and voiceovers that speak to Ted Bundy’s sheer arrogance and the crimes he committed.
The trailer is more akin to watching a preview of Rocketman, the biopic of Elton John, than it is for a brutal, self-confessed murderer of 30 women played by Zac Efron. On one hand, my initial impression was that the film was going to take this strange angle that all the fame and press coverage made Ted Bundy a rock star akin to the beloved Elton John. It would reflect the unhealthy attitudes that groupies of serial killers and other obsessives have about these people, despite their horrific and unforgivable acts. This was my assessment at its best, but at its worst, I wondered how a responsible director and writer could promote and create a film that not only degrades the families of the numerous victims, but also one that paints Bundy in a light where he can be sympathetic.
Hence, I was enthralled when Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile came to Netflix as I had seen some previous reviews calling the movie a disgrace to victims and that it was exactly what everyone thought it was going to be. I was ready for an offensive biography that wanted to cash in on this current tidal wave of true crime content. I wanted to be outraged, I wanted to see a film have the guts to pee on me and tell me it was raining. Instead, I got a pretty mediocre film that was so bland, the only thing I felt was disappointment.
The movie bills itself as being based on The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy, a memoir written by Elizabeth Kendall (played by Lily Collins) about her experience dating Bundy. They were in a relationship when he started catching charges related to his criminal activity. However, Kendall is the main character for only a third of the film and her downward spiral is awkwardly shoved between scenes of a sympathetic Bundy unjustly facing the cruelty of “overenthusiastic prosecutors.” After Kendall’s exit from the main thread of the story is actually where the plot takes a turn for the worse and the movie becomes a drag. A timeline of Bundy’s crimes and exploits that took place over the years is propelled from moment to moment based on what the movie can recreate from real life T.V. coverage. For instance, the infamous footage of Bundy exiting an elevator in the Orange County Courthouse in order to have his charges be read to him in front of T.V. cameras was a simple recreation that did not bring anything new to this documented moment in history. There are many scenes like this that only pay off later when the movie shows the real footage of Ted Bundy to wow you with the fact that they did a great job recreating these scenes, I guess?
This was all such a waste as Zac Efron did a great job playing a charismatic murderer that was justly tortured with his own inadequacy and his pathetic self image. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile could have done so much, but chose to make a mediocre biopic that is easily forgettable. For instance, the film could have aggressively tried to sell to the viewer this image that Ted Bundy is a sympathetic character to the point that it would cause discomfort and then slap the audience with gory descriptions of his crimes. This would have potentially made the point that from your T.V. he was worthy of your attention and adoration despite the fact that he brutally ripped apart women’s skin with his teeth. Or, they could have even honored Kendall’s experience with Ted Bundy as an obsessed ex-boyfriend and even this story would be more compelling than what was delivered.
Overall, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile did not deliver an offensive movie in the sense that it focused on Ted Bundy as a hero or actively ignored victims or encouraged serial killer obsessives, but rather, its only offense was that it was boring.