Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is now playing in selected cinemas nationwide.
Ted Bundy was one of the most notorious serial killers in modern American history, viciously murdering and raping over 30 women during the 1970s. However, during much of that time, Bundy had a female partner, a woman who has often been sidelined in discussions as a mere victim of his manipulation, multiple personalities and deadly charm. Loosely based on the book The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy, Joe Berlinger brings us a film that aims to explore the deceit and lies of Bundy and the devastating, lasting effects of his wicked charm on his partner and her child. To achieve this, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile needed to ensure Bundy was not the centre of attention, and despite the outstanding performances, it fails in this duty.
There is no doubt that Berlinger’s choice of Zac Efron as Ted Bundy is inspired or that Efron puts in an outstanding and rich performance that explores how Bundy played with image, sexuality and charm. But Bundy’s female partner, Elizabeth Kloepfer (Lily Collins), feels neglected, with a lack of focus on Kloepfer’s inner emotions and turmoil. That doesn’t mean Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile doesn’t carry a disarming and often uncomfortable atmosphere, but this is Bundy’s film, not Kloepfer’s.
Berlinger treads the same ground seen in many Bundy documentaries and dramas, and while he is to be commended for his focus on Bundy’s ability to trap people, ultimately, there is nothing new on offer. By sidelining Elizabeth Kloepfer in favour of Bundy, Berlinger squanders the opportunity to fully explore her love for Bundy and the slow realisation that the man she held close murdered countless other women. The limited runtime may be at the heart of this weakness, but so is the ongoing public obsession with Bundy, the man and the murderer. Efron may be outstanding, but one wonders if we are still gripped by the allure of the killer rather than the lives of the people he manipulated and viciously murdered.