EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE joined the copious array of books, documentaries and feature films that try to paint a partial picture of serial killer Ted Bundy. Along with the 1986 made-for-TV effort The Deliberate Stranger, this 2019 go from director Joe Berlinger is the best of the dramatizations. Known for his numerous, highly regarded documentary forays into the true-crime field, Berlinger immediately preceded this with a chilling documentary, Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.
Mercifully refraining from exploitation, Berlinger doesn’t show the heinous crimes themselves being committed, relying on sufficiently disturbing verbal description. The script, written by Elizabeth Kendall and Michael Werwie, was adapted from Kendall’s book “The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy”.
The framework for this telling gets into the “normal” relationship Bundy (Zac Efron) had with single mother Kendall (Lily Collins), one that ran from their meeting in Seattle in 1969 up until she broke up with him in the late 70s, when her loyalty was replaced by the renewed devotion of Carole Boone (Kaya Scodelario), someone Bundy knew from before. Despite mountains of evidence, collected in several states, attesting to Bundy’s crimes, the besotted women refuse to acknowledge the truth. On a micro-level, the story shows what can happen when people ditch logic and take an emotional position of refusing reality even when the separation of lies from facts stares them right in the face.
Efron’s superb. With good work from John Malkovich (wisely restrained), Jim Parsons (nice to see him do drama), Haley Joel Osment, James Hetfield, Jeffrey Donovan, Brian Geraghty, Angela Sarafyan and Dylan Baker. Limited theatrical release saw most of the $9,817,000 gross coming from international markets. 110 minutes.