• Jasmine Holly Bullock

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile: Film Review

‘Murderers do not come out in the dark with long teeth and saliva dripping off their chin. People don’t realise that there are killers among them. People they liked, loved, lived with, worked with and admired could the next day turn out to be the most demonic people imaginable.’ – Ted Bundy

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is a 2019 film that follows the arrest and trial of Theodore ‘Ted’ Robert Bundy for various cases of murder, assault and attempted kidnapping. During months of January to July 1974 there was a wave of fear as women were being assaulted and murdered with unbelievable regularity however, this film doesn’t focus in depth on the crimes that Bundy was accused of; there is not much gore here. Instead, the story is centred more around Bundy’s relationship with his long-term girlfriend, Elizabeth Kendall, and how his arrest affected her and their relationship.

Later on, the focus shifts to the trial of Bundy and the media coverage it; this was the first nationally televised murder trial in the history of America. The trial received an unprecedented amount of public interest due to the violent nature of the crimes, there were approximately 250 reporters following the case from 5 different continents. Moreover Bundy, who was a law student, decided to act as his own defence lawyer for some of the trails which further added to the engaging nature of the case. I must say, it was really interesting to see Bundy’s story from these different points of view.

In regards to the cast, I think Zac Efron, who played Ted Bundy, did so wonderfully... although that feels weird to say. Efron’s resemblance to Bundy was, at times, eerily convincing. Additionally Efron’s mannerisms and cool-headedness really encapsulated the image that Bundy portrayed to those around him. He was mostly relaxed and at ease when talking to others and was so charismatic, but this is exactly what made him so dangerous. Efron as the sociopathic Bundy was a good casting choice. Kaya Scodelario was also cast well in her role as Carol Ann Boone, although her character wasn’t the most likeable or understandable; Scodelario did a great job and bared an adequate resemblance to the real life Boone. Lilly Collins’ performance as Bundy’s girlfriend, Elizabeth Kendall, was pretty good. Collins’ emotional character development was really touching and evoked empathy for a woman who suddenly didn’t know the man she was in love with. Yet, I do think Collins was perhaps too young to play this role, even at the end she seemed too young to have gone through what her character had and she speared to be VERY close in age to the character of her daughter, Molly.

(Real Elizabeth & Molly Kendall with Bundy Vs Efron as Bundy, Morgan Pyle as Molly and Collins as Elizabeth)

This production gave the feel of the 1970’s so well and in so many ways. The costuming, styling of hair and the set designs were perfect, they really represented the fashion choices of the 70’s. Also, the clothing was very much true to things worn by Bundy in real life, especially things he wore during interviews and trial sessions. One of the other things that really made the film scream 1970’s was the music.

The soundtrack for Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile was extremely fitting and not so shockingly amazing. The first song in the film was Do You Believe in Magic by The Lovin’ Spoonful, which is one of my all-time favourite songs, so I was immediately won over. Another great song used was I GOTCHA by Joe Tex, which was just so funky and I loved it. I also liked that at some points the songs used were done so ironically, such as the playing of Lucky Man by Keith Emerson whilst Bundy is escorted out of a court house. Some great musical choices were made in this film.

Additionally, the dialogue for this film was fascinating because for some moments, such as during interviews and court statements, the dialogue was verbatim (meaning it was taken from real life statements and conversations). Like nearly every film that is based on true events, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile altered some of the events for dramatic effect and to make the story more ‘entertaining’, for example the dog barking scene and the importance of the story of Papillion. Yet, the use of verbatim dialogue really convinces the audience of the truthfulness of the film and its attempts to keep things as accurate as possible.

Another thing that gives the illusion of honesty and authenticity in the film is cinematography and the use of framing and filters. Framing choices and grainy filters were used for displaying recorded footage within the film. There were a number of recreated interviews and home footage used in this film that was very realistic; in fact, you’d think some of the clips were the real footage from the 1970s! I think it was a compelling move to recreate these moments, rather than just taking the real footage, by doing this the film suggests it is trying its utmost best to show an honest portrayal of the characters and events by reproducing old footage to a high standard of believability. Only at the end, during the credits, are the audience shown real clips regarding Bundy, the people who knew Bundy and the court cases. I watched the credits right until the end just to see all of these snippets and to compare them to the things shown in the film. After genuine footage has been withheld from you, you become truly engrossed by it when you finally get to see it.

Ted Bundy is a name that, to this day, is so instinctively connected to evil and atrocity, but this film highlights how Bundy was perceived as charismatic and likeable to many. Initially, his friends and family were so convinced of his innocence that they raised money for his bail costs. Perhaps this is why Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile makes an effort to make Bundy seem innocent... in order to make the audience relate to Liz and other people who knew Bundy and were fooled by him. Furthermore, Bundy actually denied his guilt right up until days before his execution (technically this shouldn’t be a spoiler because most of us know about Bundy), so perhaps the lack of a direct display of guilt surrounding Bundy was done for this reason too, to kind of mess with the audience.

There was no in depth DNA testing in the 1970s so the court case scenes were useful to show what evidence actually got Bundy convicted. It is odd to think that Bundy came so close to getting away with his crimes, after all the only reason he got stopped by police was because he had ignored several red lights whilst driving. It’s scary to think how close Elizabeth Kendall may have come to being Bundy’s next victim. Whilst Bundy proclaimed to have loved Kendall and though Kendall almost attests this in interviews, it is questionable whether a not Bundy, who was a sociopath, actually had the capability to fall in love. Bundy was responsible for the death of 29 women and 1 twelve-year-old girl, although it is estimated there are possibly more victims that he did not mention in his confession. Bundy was a murderer who had the gift of the gab and was the master of manipulation. He killed so frequently, there is no doubt that if he was not caught he would have kept on killing.

I certainly recommend Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, it reminds us of how deadly charm can be and how deceiving trust can be, because the people we love most can also be the monsters we are afraid of.

(Real Ted Bundy & Zac Efron as Ted Bundy)

RATING: ★★★★


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