REVIEW: ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile’

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The true-crime genre has been on quite a rise over the past few years. Whether it’s podcasts, literature, television shows or movies, these stories have managed to capture the attention of the masses. The most recent true-crime story to be told is based on Liz Kendall’s real-life relationship with one of the most dangerous serial killers in U.S. history, Ted Bundy.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, directed by Joe Berlinger, stars Zac Efron as Ted Bundy, Lily Collins as Elizabeth “Liz” Kendall, Kaya Scodelario as Carol Anne Boone, Haley Joel Osment as Jeremy, and Angela Sarafyan as Joanna. The movie follows a single mother named Liz who falls in love with Ted Bundy. When she begins to hear reports of Ted being accused for murder and kidnapping, she refuses to believe them. Throughout the majority of the movie, Liz must deal with the truth behind the accusations and discover who the man she fell in love with really is, all based on Liz’s accounting of the time in her life.

One of the major complaints that the first trailer of this film received as that it over sexualized Ted Bundy and tried to make its audience sympathize with him. I had heard that this movie was being made before anything official had been released, but watching the trailer did put me off from watching it. The studio must have heard people’s complaints and made the second trailer much more grounded. That trailer focused more on Liz and her realizing what kind of person Bundy was without portraying Bundy as a sympathetic man.

Like most people, I had heard about Ted Bundy and what he had done, but it was only through either word of mouth or through other adaptations of his life. Most of those stories focused on who he was, what he did, and who his victims were. It’s common knowledge that there have been many stories told of him, most notably the recent Netflix documentary Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, but there haven’t been many stories told from the people in his life.

In Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile Collins, as Liz, delivered what can only be described as a powerful depiction of a strong woman and her encounter with danger. Her portrayal is intended to make us sympathize with her and feel what she feels as this metaphorical veil is lifted from her life once she learns more about Bundy.

Liz is the focus of this story, for example, there’s a montage scene during one of Bundy’s trials that focuses on the effect that it has on Liz. She goes from walking around in her home to laying on the couch, and even waiting by the phone waiting to hear from Ted. This scene does an incredible job of displaying the possible mental state that Liz is in. As an audience, we know that Bundy is guilty but Liz is conflicted with wanting to believe that he is innocent and coming to terms with him being guilty.

One of the few things that didn’t sit well with me when the cast was announced was that Zac Efron would play as Ted Bundy. I remembered him from his days in the High School Musical days and hadn’t seen anything he was in until I saw that horrendous Baywatch reboot. However, his performance throughout the entire film is quite possibly one of the best portrayals of Bundy I have ever seen.

Efron’s entire performance is the epitome of gaslighting. He managed to capture Ted’s darkness and the essence of his false persona with such haunting accuracy. There are certain moments where Efron’s charismatic portrayal reaches a whole new level and may make some viewers even sympathize with Bundy, but its clearly Bundy’s manipulation.

The relationship between Bundy and Liz in this Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile is executed very well. Like I mentioned before, Bundy was a master of gaslighting. He fell in love with Liz and found ways to manipulate her throughout their relationship, even after they had broken up. There’s one scene where he makes her promise that she’ll never leave him after he is being put on trial. The depiction of their entire relationship in the film was about control, it made sure to tell how Liz was manipulated and the effect he and that control had on her.

As for Scodelario, I had only seen her in the most recent Pirates of the Caribbean film and I really liked her performance in it. She does an incredible job with portraying Carol Anne, another woman in Bundy’s life that was manipulated by him. Unlike Liz, Carol Anne was completely mesmerized by Ted and wasn’t able to break free from his control. She’s the complete opposite of Liz and the film goes to great lengths to demonstrate this. Carol Anne, without a second thought, moves to Florida just to be with Ted while he’s behind bars. While Liz left him once she realized she couldn’t take the stress of his trial and his actions.

One of the worries that I had going into the film was that even after the second trailer, the film would make Bundy into a sensational figure and have me sympathize with him. However, it does a fantastic job at pointing out his manipulative personality. With that, I would’ve liked for there to have been a bit more focus on the victims and less about him. There’ s no doubt that this story is told through Liz, but the victims aren’t really talked about. They’re mentioned in parts of the trial and included at the end of the film, but they’re not mentioned anywhere else.

Beyond the characters, the pacing of the film is a bit messy at times. The movie starts days before Bundy’s death and then moves through the start of his relationship with Liz. A big part of what makes the pacing a mess is that it speeds to the trials very quickly. Not much is shown of their relationship, instead focusing on the effect that it has on Liz. I would’ve been more invested had there been a deeper focus on that. The payoff at the end of the film would have been greater had I known more about their time together.

Overall, I really enjoyed watching this movie. It wasn’t made as a way to sexualize or empathize with Ted Bundy, but it puts focus on the people around him who were manipulated. Be ready to feel a bit nauseous and unsettled once the movie ends.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile is available to stream on Netflix and playing at select cinemas.

Final Rating: 8/10