The new Ted Bundy biopic ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’ starring Zac Efron as the depraved serial killer celebrated a premiere screening at Sundance Film Festival and critics were certainly divided.
Oscar-nominated director and documentarian Joe Berlinger brings back to life the shocking events from the perspective of Bundy’s longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Kloepfer, who was in a relationship with the serial killer for seven years.
Set in the late 1970s, early reactions to Efron’s casting were positive and many fans agreed it was a ‘career changing’ moment for him. Unlike previous actors who have embodied serial killers (Charlize Theron notably bagged an Academy Award for her portrayal of Aileen Wuornos in Monster), he did not require prosethetics or weight gain.
Efron naturally slipped into the role of Bundy and explained during a Q&A, “We had the same sort of mannerisms…we do the same things.”
“I think (Efron is) startlingly good: controlled, magnetic, audacious, committed, and eerily right.”
Adding, “’Extremely Wicked’ doesn’t rub our noses in the horror of Ted Bundy. It shows us just enough, keeping the horror where it belongs, in the recesses of our imagination, where it remains what it should be: dark as midnight, and altogether too much to fathom.”
There were many who raised concerns over a heartthrob like Efron playing the role of Bundy, even claiming that he was romanticizing the killer who brutalized and murdered 30 women. The Playlist’s Rodrigo Perez criticizes that the film makes “Bundy look like a little bit of a rock star at times even though the movie purports to condemn him. ”
However, one Bundy survivor believes casting Efron is not glorifying Bundy. Kathy Kleiner was attacked by the serial killer at Florida State University’s Chi Omega house in 1978, she told TMZ:
“I don’t have a problem with people looking at it, and as long as they understand that what they’re watching wasn’t a normal person. I believe that in order to show him exactly the way he was, it’s not really glorifying him, but it’s showing him, and when they do say positive and wonderful things about him… that’s what they saw, that’s what Bundy wanted you to see.”
In agreement with this is Emily Tannenbaum. Reviewing for Cosmopolitan magazine she believes that the film is “tasteful” and confirmed:
“It was one of, if not the most, tasteful and respectful films on this type of subject I’ve seen. In the end, it was a film about the victims: including Kloepfer. There were no graphic murders or sexualization of his crimes. Bundy was just as the title suggests: evil and vile. For that, Efron has a reason to be proud.”
“If all we’re really taking from a movie about a man who murdered 30-plus women is ‘Zac Efron sure is surprising,’ then I don’t think that movie has earned its existence,” he writes in Vanity Fair.
Director Joe Berlinger explained during an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune:
“I certainly don’t think we’re glorifying him because he gets his due. If it was a typical serial-killer movie… I think that would just so poison the audience into being able to have this experience of being able to be deceived by somebody who’s so believable and charismatic.”
Bundy did get his due on January 24th, 1989. He was executed in the electric chair during the early hours of the morning aged 42-years-old.