Frightfest presents No Man of God; book festival tickets here
No Man of God is released on digital platforms on 13th September and on Special Edition Blu-ray on 25th October
There has been no shortage of films and documentaries exploring the vicious and deadly charm of Ted Bundy over recent years – Netflix brought us his haunting tapes while Zac Efron explored his fatal charm in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. Therefore, one could ask whether we are now media tired of this notorious killer’s story, and it’s one of the reasons I approach any new Bundy-inspired film with a sense of trepidation. Thankfully, Amber Sealey’s No Man of God offers us something different from the plethora of movies and documentaries that have come before it. Here Sealey’s mission is clear; delve into the psychology of Bundy’s manipulative persona during the final years of his life on death row through his relationship with FBI psychological profiler Bill Hagmaier (Elijah Wood).
READ MORE: EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE
Luke Kirby’s performance as Bundy is one of the most realistic and complex I have seen on screen, but at its heart, this is Hagmaier’s story, and that’s what makes No Man of God stand out from the crowd. Here Hagmaier’s new role as one of the very first criminal psychology profilers is fascinating in its own right. Elijah Wood explores Hagmaier’s keenness to gain Bundy’s confession in a series of nail-biting interviews and discussions. Here Sealey focuses on the relationship between the criminal and the psychologist through measured, intelligent and manipulative conversations highlighting Bundy and Hagmaier’s equally sharp intellects.
Hagmaier and Bundy’s interviews with no more than a table between them carry an intense power as Wood and Kirby gently spa with each other in earning the other’s trust. Here Kirby’s Bundy toys with Wood’s Hagmaier like a cat with a mouse until he realises the mouse, is playing a waiting game before making its move. As we watch the relationship between both men grow, Bundy’s gradual acceptance of Hagmaier’s social and psychological intelligence is compelling. Here Wood’s Hagmaier is consumed by the emotional turmoil his job generates as he attempts to unpick Bundy’s motivations and the deepest and darkest thoughts behind his actions.
READ MORE: KILLER THERAPY
Sealey’s choice of natural breaks in the theatrical drama is also inspired as she alternates between archival 70s and 80s footage and dark and eerie montages that reflect Hagmaier’s inner thoughts. However, despite the sheer power of No Man of God’s performances and artistry, the limited runtime is the film’s biggest flaw. Here a need to wrap things up quickly is ultimately detrimental. For example, Hagmaier’s faith feels under-explored, while Bundy’s confession and subsequent interviews with local state police feel rushed.
However, despite these flaws, No Man of God is riveting, complex and beautifully performed. Here Bundy and his persona are secondary to the importance of psychological profiling. So does No Man of God bring anything new to the table? In part, it highlights that the men and women who commit horrendous acts of violence are not demonic, do not have glowing red eyes, and are not mad. They are manipulative, intelligent, often pleasant and always cunning. This may be uncomfortable for some, but thankfully people like Bill delve into the minds of killers, so we don’t have to.
DAHMER AND MY FRIEND DAHMER