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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Extremely Wicked Shockingly Evil and Vile Movie Review: Zac Efron Shines in an Otherwise Problematic Product

Extremely Wicked Shockingly Evil and Vile has been the talk-of-the-town for several months now.

After a while, a film on infamous American serial killer Ted Bundy released and the trailer promised the film to be a harrowing watch.

It is directed by Joe Berlinger, also the maker of Netflix’s documentary-series Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.

The film opens with Ted Bundy (Zac Efron) talking to Elizabeth Kendall aka Liz (Lily Collins) in a bar and his interactions with her daughter, Molly.

Soon after moving in, Bundy is arrested in connection with a kidnapping, but Liz is convinced it’s because he looks like the actual suspect.

Bundy is accused and sentenced to prison for aggravated assault in Utah. He goes on to escape from two jails.

He is caught in Florida and put on trial for murder. During the trial, he fires his lawyer and represents himself. Throughout the arrests and trials, Liz remains by his side.

Does it ‘glorify’ or ‘romanticise’ killer Ted Bundy?

The narrative structure helps in making Extremely Wicked different from it being a documentary or biographical drama.

Rather than showing it in chronological order of Bundy’s murder spree, Berlinger chooses the non-linear narrative style which showcases a different, yet the factual side of the killer.

We witness the movie by the perspective of Liz as well as the established and known aspects about the case.

When the trailer released, people thought that the film would ‘glorify’ or ‘romanticise’ Bundy but it doesn’t necessarily do so.

If we see the killer as a charming, handsome, charismatic man, then it’s probably because he was.

We knew that he was guilty, but he himself believed in his innocence.

At the same time, we see the egoistic and pompous side to him… Which is what drove him towards committing such heinous crimes in the first place.

Comparatively to other serial killer films, this does not shock us by the gore and horror of the crimes because that was just one aspect to Ted Bundy.

Going by documentaries and witness accounts, Bundy did not seem to be a continuous killing machine like Halloween’s Michael Myers, per se.

He believed himself to be this respectable, dashing and invincible person… Which is exactly what the film depicts.

The killings were his ‘achievements’ that fuelled his false sense of pride and narcissism.

In fact, it scares us to see how ordinary and so-to-speak ‘sane’ women found him handsome and were fascinated by him, despite the monstrous crimes he committed.

Furthermore, the way the media provided a mouth-piece for these deluded beings is also quite concerning.

The Representation of Female Characters

The movie’s narration from the perception of Liz is not problematic.

In fact, it is completely understandable to see how this oblivious, naïve and love-blinded girl felt about this seemingly innocent man… Ultimately coming to terms with his shocking reality.

However, the issue appears with the way her role is reduced to a delusional, self-destructive and self-pitying individual.

We are not disputing or questioning that this may have actually happened, but to see such a representation today is quite distasteful.

Whilst she does come to terms with Bundy’s reality, the overall depiction just seems regressive for today’s day and age.

Living in an era where female empowerment is at large and women today are fighting patriarchy, the last thing we need to see is women being at the mercy of an evil man.

The narrative gets twisted in such a way where it almost becomes a love triangle between Liz, Bundy and Carole Ann Boone – Bundy’s wife before his execution (played by Kaya Scodelario).

Perhaps a story which is described through the perspectives of Liz and the victims’ families. This would’ve made the film far more effective and balanced.

The good thing is that this film teaches a lesson that no matter how attractive a person is, that does not mean they are a good human being.

In today’s day and age which is all about the looks and visual appeal, we must all be alert about the evil behind every beautiful mask.

Cast Performances

When it comes to the performances, each cast member does well. But Zac Efron steals the show.

For quite some time now, he was stuck playing this teen icon, whose purpose is to only flaunt the abs and provide comic relief.

However, his performance as Ted speaks volumes for his calibre as an actor. With this film, he waves goodbye to his Troy Bolton image.

There is a subtlety to his depiction as the killer.

His expressions are not drastic when it comes to showcasing Bundy as a calculative and evil being. He gets that correct proportion as an actor, which is very difficult to do.

If just seeing the re-enactment of the infamous killer makes us sick and afraid, we cannot imagine how Zac must have felt whilst playing the role!

Lily Collins tries her best at playing the role of a working, single mother who is love-struck by Bundy.

Like we mentioned, the biggest issue is how the character is portrayed.

At some point in life, I’m sure Liz would’ve stood her ground and fight back the demons of her past. If this was the case why couldn’t we be shown this aspect?

Kaya Scodelario is a very talented actor and despite having a supporting role, she does well in her part.

However, the issue is again with the actual character who was smitten by Bundy and believes in his innocence.

John Malkovich appears as Edward Cowart, the judge presiding over Bundy’s case. He plays the role convincingly.

Final Word

On the whole, Extremely Wicked can be decent, depending on how one wishes to view the film.

If one wishes to view it as a biographical drama, then, unfortunately, it isn’t on that aspect.

This is because most of the information the film provides is already public knowledge, which has been covered in detail by the Netflix docu-series.

However, if an individual watches the movie for a different perspective on Ted Bundy, then it somewhat does that.

The representation of female protagonists, despite being inspired by real-life, appears to be quite displeasing.

Perhaps if we saw this film a couple of years back, then maybe it would not have been as frowned upon as much.

Zac Efron is the main reason why this film is watchable. View it only for him giving his career’s best performance yet.

⭐⭐⭐(3/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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