Emily J. Sullivan
“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” dropped on Netflix May 3, bringing the film into the homes of viewers much sooner than eager audiences had anticipated.
When the trailer for “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” dropped in January of this year, the media went into a frenzy. Many were outraged that Hollywood hunk Zac Efron was cast as one of the most prolific serial killers of the 20th century.
Claims that Hollywood set out to sexualize Bundy by casting Efron were making headlines and trending on Twitter.
The trailer was set to rock ‘n’ roll music and showed the dreamy Efron bearing a striking resemblance to Bundy – it didn’t feel like a horror film, but more of a biopic.
While many criticized the film, believing it would glorify Bundy rather than portray him as a monster, the choice to cast Efron seemed deliberate.
Ted Bundy was handsome and charming; he was able to manipulate at least 30 known women, but likely many more, into taking a ride in his infamous Volkswagen Beetle, no doubt using his charisma and good looks to sway his potential victims.
Bundy had courtroom groupies and letters with marriage proposals flooding his prison cell. It seems only appropriate, in that case, to cast one of Hollywood’s most popular leading men.
The film is based on Elizabeth Kendall’s memoir “The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy.”
Elizabeth Kendall is a pseudonym for Bundy’s long-time ex-girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer.
The story is told from her point of view, it focuses more on her conflicting feelings about Bundy and her transition from loving him and trusting him to doubting him and, ultimately, discovering who he really was.
Her point of view is important because so many people went on that same journey of initially trusting a seemingly normal Bundy, to realizing the man before them was far from “normal.”
It sets out to prove that people are not always who you think they are.
Even the Florida judge, Edward D. Cowart, who oversaw Bundy’s case seemed to be fooled by Bundy, calling him “partner,” telling him he would have made a fine lawyer and that he was a bright young man.
Judge Cowart shocked and set off the public by telling Bundy he had no ill-will against him the day he sentenced him to death, and this was after he had seen gruesome crime scene photos and Bundy escaping police custody twice.
Efron does an impressive job at portraying the man, who was endlessly creepy and notoriously beguiling.
The real superstar of the film though is Lily Collins, who plays Elizabeth Kloepfer.
She tortured herself for years with guilt over giving authorities Bundy’s name and not realizing Bundy’s guilt sooner or more confidently.
Collins brings such vulnerability to the character, forcing the audience to feel empathy for someone they may not have right off the bat.
“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” did not include any murder scenes, making the film more about the power of manipulation and charm rather than a graphic depiction of his brutal violence.
Emily J. Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.