In order to get the most out of Netflix’s latest take on the Ted Bundy story, you should do the following:
- Be born after 1989
- Be born outside the USA
- Not have watched Netflix’s own Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (2019)
If you fit this criteria, you may just be able to buy the films unusual through-line that Ted Bundy was an innocent man, wrongfully pursued, harangued and harassed by the Authorities due to their own political agendas.
But this is only one through-line of a confused narrative which seems to have forgotten two basic principals of storytelling. That is, the answer to the questions:
- Who is the intended audience
- Whose story is it?
The latter question seems to be answered within the First Act in that we follow the perspective of Bundy’s girlfriend, Liz Kendall (Lily Collins). And this could have been an interesting take on a story that everyone but a technology-deprived Millennial orphan knows at least on some level. Yet bafflingly the story jumps a large chunk of time and the perspective inexplicably shifts to the point that we end up with a straight biopic whose mediocrity is reinforced by the tired technique of showing actual footage of the Bundy trial during the closing credits.
Zac Efron is serviceable as Bundy, capturing in particular the charismatic charm of the chameleonic sociopath. Lily Collins’ does well with what she’s given but the lack of screen time provided for the relationship between Bundy and Liz is a major barrier to the suspension of disbelief required to support a seemingly central premise that Liz didn’t know of her boyfriend’s misdeeds.
In choosing to keep the details of the Bundy’s crimes to a minimum and in shifting between perspectives, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019) essentially only serves to portray the least interesting aspects of a sickening yet incredible story.Director Joe Berlinger’s own limited documentary series, Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (2019) is a much more worth-while watch.