Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is a new Netflix release that features Zac Efron as notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. The film focuses a lot on his relationship with Elizabeth Kloepfer, played by Lily Collins. In fact, much the movie is from her point of view as she stays by Bundy’s side for many of the accusations and trials, despite evidence continuously stacking up against him. The film demonstrates how Bundy used his charm and personality to convince her and others for so long that he was innocent of the heinous crimes he was accused of.
By far the best part of Extremely Wicked is Zac Efron. I, like many others, was very skeptical of him in this role. He quickly put my worries to rest as he turns in a career-best performance. He does bare a resemblance to Bundy, and manages to get so many of his mannerisms right. Like Bundy, he displays good looks and charm to match, despite the evil that lies beneath. I had no problem buying him in the role, as he blends almost flawlessly into who he is portraying.
Lily Collins is also really good as Bundy’s longtime girlfriend, Liz. She does a great job displaying the torment and guilt she faced as Bundy went through the arrests and ensuing trials. You watch as the stress quite literally ruins her life and fuels her alcoholism. She demonstrated that Liz wanted to believe Bundy, but everything in her told her something was wrong.
Despite great performances, the movie does struggle with its narrative structure and pacing. It can’t seem to decide if it wants to be a sort of biopic on Liz, focus on Bundy himself, or be a courtroom drama of what led to his eventual conviction in Florida. It also doesn’t do a good job of establishing when the events are taking place. Some of what is occurring feels like flashbacks but is actually part of the main story the movie is telling, and vice versa. It feels like several movies crammed into one. And while each part is very good, overall it feels messy and can be hard to follow. Sticking with one overall theme and structure would have better served the movie and allowed each performance to really shine.
The tone of the movie also feels off at time. It spends a lot of time building up Bundy’s personality, which by all accounts is accurate, but doesn’t do enough to show how horrible he really was. It’s main focus is of the murders he committed in Florida, which the movie does go into detail on, but leaves out the majority of the other murders, rapes, and acts of necrophilia he committed. I’m just not sold on the message the movie is sending by focusing so much on Bundy’s charm, and not balancing it out by showing how evil he truly was.
Despite the issues I have with it, I did enjoy watching Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, for Efron’s performance if nothing else. If you are interested in Ted Bundy’s story, this is a good addition to the dozens of documentaries and dramatizations of his life, especially if you are looking for one that focuses on his relationships while committing horrible acts of violence in the ’70s. It will also benefit you to know a little of the backstory, as the movie doesn’t do a great job of explaining everything that Bundy did. It is free to see now using whoever’s Netflix subscription you have access to.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile teeters between 10-4 and Positive ROP, but at the time of writing this, based mostly on Efron’s shockingly good performance, I’m gonna go ahead and bump it up to Positive ROP.
Ratings from low to high: Felony, Misdemeanor, 10-4, Positive ROP, Golden Donut