Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Movie Review: "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile" (2019)

Director: Joe Berlinger
Year: 2019
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

A look at the arrest, trial, and media frenzy surrounding infamous serial killer Ted Bundy and how it affected his longtime girlfriend, Liz Kendall.

Movie still for Netflix's Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019) where Ted Bundy (Zac Efron) and Liz Kendall (Lily Collins) dance together in a bar
"I fell in love with a weirdo." (Image Source)
America has had an odd obsession with true crime and serial killers for decades. The media craze that murderers cause has often led many despicable people to have a bewildering level of celebrity, few more famous and infamous than the subject of America's first television trial, Ted Bundy. "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile" (2019) is directed by Joe Berlinger, who is best known for directing true crime documentaries, including the "Paradise Lost" trilogy and "Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bugler," as well as the feature film "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2." The screenplay is by Michael Werwie and is based on the book "The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy" by Elizabeth Kendall. The film tells the story of Ted Bundy (Zac Efron) from the beginning of his relationship with Elizabeth 'Liz' Kendall (Lily Collins) to his infamous trial for murder. It also covers the media frenzy that surrounded his court case and how it all changed Liz Kendall's life emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Movie still for Joe Berlinger's 2019 Netflix film "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile" where Zac Efron's character Ted Bundy, Kaya Scodelario's character Carole Ann Boone, and Lily Collins's character Liz Kendall meet each other at a dog pound for the first time in the 1970's
"Sooner or later, you're going to have to confront the truth." (Image Source)
Director Joe Berlinger executes a slightly different approach to the story of Ted Bundy than we have seen other filmmakers take in the past by shying away from showing the details of the graphic murders he committed. We're sort of okay with this omission given that this movie is based on Liz Kendall's book and is meant to offer her account of her experiences with Bundy rather than being a story about Bundy himself. We also saw this route taken in 2018's "My Friend Dahmer," which told the story of Jeffrey Dahmer through the perspective of his childhood friend Derf Backderf. These tales are obviously not meant to fully humanize psychopaths like Bundy or Dahmer, they seek to show and explain how an ordinary person can fall prey to their charms and question whether or not they actually perpetrated the heinous atrocities they would eventually admit to committing. It's a little weird to us that "Extremely Wicked" is as Bundy-centric as it is considering it's supposed to be based on Kendall's experiences, especially since her character doesn't really get a chance to shine until the very last few minutes of the film. For the most part, her story is pushed to the side, especially in the latter half as the grand spectacle and the broadcasting fervor surrounding the Bundy trial take center stage. The story also shifts midway through to focus on the relationship between Bundy and Carole Ann Boone (Kaya Scodelario) with only fleeting glimpses of Liz, her torment, and the lamenting guilt she felt for her past actions. We wish Lily Collins had gotten more to do here because we know she's capable of much more than this lukewarm affair has to give her. That being said, Zac Efron gives an astounding portrayal of Ted Bundy, the psychopathic killer who charmed a nation to the point of receiving fan mail from scores of women despite being on trial for some of the most unthinkable crimes imaginable.
Netflix's film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile 2019 movie still where Zac Efron, playing Ted Bundy, stands up in court to face his sentence
"I'm more popular than Disney World." (Image Source)
Though Joe Berlinger manages to capture Ted Bundy's trial and its ensuing media spectacle with astonishing accuracy, we feel the overall narrative of "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile" (2019) is a little unbalanced in its focus. Berlinger and co. clearly forgot whose story they were trying to tell, and in the process, made an extremely tepid, shockingly underwhelming, and mediocre film because of it.

My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.7/10
RT Rating: 56%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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