“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” attempts to tell the story of Ted Bundy through the eyes of his former longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kendall — and it does in not so great fashion, with more describing than showing. Throughout its entire 108-minute runtime, the biopic falls short on delivering anything resembling the title of the movie besides an “extremely wicked” performance by Zac Efron.
Arguably the most infamous and notorious serial killer ever, Bundy confessed to killing at least 30 women before he was executed at the age of 42.
Director Joe Berlinger, who also directed a Ted Bundy documentary, decided that he would base the movie off of Kendall’s book, “The Phantom Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy.” So for people expecting a copious amount of murder and gore, that is not what this movie is, unfortunately. The focal point of the story is split between Bundy and Kendall.
At first glance, Bundy was seen by on-goers as just another normal individual. He was able to deceive and manipulate people by being charming, intelligent and most of all, handsome. Not a soul would even think he was capable of killing another human being.
Efron perfectly embodied the spirit of Bundy, and beautifully captured the off-kiltered nature of his personality. Lily Collins, although not much room to work with, did a decent job as Kendall in an extremely limiting role — but praise should be given to Collins for her final scene. John Malkovich as judge Edward Cowart, who coined the term that was ultimately used for the title of the movie, was a surprising bright spot in an otherwise dull movie.
“Extremely Wicked” tries to visualize Kendall’s life throughout the entire ordeal of her relationship with Bundy, and that even associating with him can lead to a lifetime of sadness and guilt. It doesn’t really work however, as Kendall seems like an afterthought of a character, juggling between happiness or depression and slowly fades into the background as the movie continues—leaving her severely underdeveloped.
Berlinger wants the viewers to feel the same delusions as Kendall did, that Bundy wasn’t guilty of any wrongdoings, but a huge portion of the audience is going into the movie knowing exactly what he had done — so in a way, it breaks the immersion factor.
The film also describes in detail about the violent acts Bundy committed, yet, Berlinger decided to only display one instance of said violent acts and never showcased anything else. Why not show more to entice the audience and sell just how horrific Bundy really was? It’s a biopic, afterall.
Doing an in-depth analysis into the psychology of Bundy’s mind was something the film never truly explored. His reasons for murdering were never touched upon and may have some viewers scratching their heads if they’d never heard of Bundy. But perhaps this was done on purpose to stay true to Kendall’s initial point of view — that she saw nothing wrong with him.
“Extremely Wicked” is hardly evil, but the performance from Efron alone should be enough for some people to give it a watch. Even though I knew the full story, Efron at times made me believe for a split second that Bundy was innocent of all his crimes. That is manipulation at its finest, and that is how Ted Bundy worked his way into the minds of so many people.