The grossly misguided “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” is a partly fictionalized account of notorious murderer Ted Bundy (Zac Efron), a man who became famous in the 1980s for committing a multitude of heinous crimes against women. The film supposedly was made to focus on the perspective of Bundy’s girlfriend Liz Kendall (Lily Collins) who for years refused to acknowledge that her lover was a serial killer, but that (admittedly interesting) angle is quickly abandoned by director Joe Berlinger for a flattering, almost pro-Bundy fan flick.
Efron proves to be an ideal casting decision in the lead role as Bundy, a dead-ringer for the man who relied on his boyish charms to seduce and then murder dozens of women. His dramatic talents are on full display here, and it’s a real shame that his performance is stranded in such a mediocre, often nauseating movie.
The most interesting parts of the story are the early years when Bundy lived with Kendall and her young daughter. It’s one of those chilling hindsights where you can’t believe this murderer was a loving stand-in father for a little girl. The film quickly shifts setting and tone once Bundy is arrested for suspected murder of several Chi Omega sorority girls in Florida. The last third of the film is no better than a Lifetime movie of the week with an extended trial that finds Bundy representing himself as his own lawyer.
Berlinger tries to cram in far too much of Bundy’s story and it becomes diluted as a result. The most grisly details are glossed over or left out entirely, and the film runs out of steam quickly. This isn’t a stellar examination of what made the man tick, and the more compelling aspects of his life (like how his ex-girlfriend dealt with the realization that he was a real sicko) are ignored.
The biggest problem here is that Bundy is portrayed almost totally positively, with a (quite literally) killer charisma that makes him a sympathetic character. The film even had me beginning to question if he indeed was guilty. I actually felt sorry for Bundy, which made me feel sick by the time the film was over.
We don’t need to see the kinder, gentler side of a deranged, savage serial killer.