Movie Review Monday: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile
Netflix consistently has new content hitting their streaming service, and one of the newest additions is Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile. A long developed project by screenwriter Michael Werwie, the film follows the story of Ted Bundy through the eyes of his longtime girlfriend, Liz. It was directed by Joe Berlinger, who also directed the docu-series, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. Zac Efron stars as Ted Bundy, and Lily Collins co-stars as Bundy’s longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kendall. The film’s cast also includes Kaya Scodelario, Jeffrey Donovan, Angela Sarafyan, Haley Joel Osment, Jim Parsons, and John Malkovich.
The film begins with Elizabeth Kendall sitting down in front of a glass barrier at a prison. Ted Bundy sits down behind the barrier, pleased to see her. They begin to have a tense conversation, which swiftly cuts to the night they met in 1969. Liz is a single mother out for the night with her friend when Bundy approaches her at the jukebox. He meets her daughter in the morning, and life between the three of them quickly settles into a comfortable pattern. By 1974, news reports begin to announce the disappearance of several women throughout Washington and Oregon. A sketch of the suspected attacker is released, and Ted ends up arrested in Utah in 1975. Bundy maintains his innocence to Liz and the public, but the situation becomes more complicated as he is picked out of a lineup for an attempted kidnapping.
This biographical crime thriller is based off of Elizabeth Kendall’s 1981 memoir, and overall, it seems to be a fairly accurate portrayal of Kendall and Bundy’s relationship based on what was made public. Their initial meeting and the relationship they maintained for many years follows her memoir, although the film makes it more dramatic and prolonged when it comes to her suspicions about Bundy and her acceptance of the truth. The costuming is precise, especially in regards to Bundy’s outfits for trials and public appearances, and prominent scenes like the courtroom scene in Florida almost follow the actual events word for word. As with all biographical films, the facts are mixed with creative embellishments to result in the most conflict and drama, and that is the formula this film follows.
While the film does not have an action packed storyline, Zac Efron gives an amazingly good performance as Bundy. He captures the charisma and charm that Bundy was said to exude. The film leans into this aspect of Bundy’s personality, and accurately portrays the following that he gained throughout the whole courtroom process. Efron also manages to capture not just the charismatic side of Bundy but also the unsettling nature of his character. Lily Collins gives a consistently good performance, but her shining moment is truly found in the final scenes of the film when her anger and guilt are fully manifested. It was also a pleasant surprise to John Malkovich portray the judge presiding over the Florida court case; he brings the required seriousness and humanity the role demands.
Overall, I would say that Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile has some impressive performances but does not necessarily stand out. The whole film is essentially a series of flashbacks, which at times does become tedious. However, I think it handles the violence of Bundy’s crimes with tact, never showcasing much of the violence but still revealing pertinent details during reports and court proceedings. The final scenes are some of the most enticing of the entire film, and it wraps up Kendall’s story well. If you are a fan of biographical crime stories, then Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile might be worth the watch, even with its creative embellishments.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.