With the 30th anniversary of the execution of Ted Bundy landing just last month, we have a lot of material on the notorious serial killer coming to our screens this year, much of which was the work of true-crime filmmaker Joe Berlinger. Not only is Berlinger’s 4-part documentary series Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes currently available on Netflix, but the director also helmed the narrative feature Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, which premiered at Sundance a few weeks ago.
It sounds like Berlinger has the Bundy market cornered this year, but in an interview with Deadline, the filmmaker claimed that this hadn’t exactly been his plan from the start:
“I wish I could say that I had this grand plan to own Bundy in 2019, but it all was just kind of happenstance.”
Indeed, the two Bundy projects were presented to Berlinger on separate occasions that were months apart. While the hours of never-before-heard recordings that would form the basis of Conversations with a Killer first landed on his desk in February of 2017, the script for Extremely Wicked “fell into his lap” the following April. But though Berlinger hadn’t intended to be 2019’s foremost creator of Ted Bundy content, he also argues that the two works “make this incredible two sides of a coin,” explaining each project’s distinct purpose as follows:
“The docuseries is a deep descent into the mind of the killer, so we start to understand how somebody like that could have gotten away with all these bad things for so long. And the movie is inside the mind and the experience of a victim.”
Out of the two projects, Extremely Wicked has seemingly proven to be the more controversial, thanks in no small part to Zac Efron’s portrayal of a ‘hot’ Ted Bundy. Both Efron and Berlinger have gone on record on multiple occasions defending the charming persona that the film grants the murderer, arguing that the movie is not a glorification of the killer, but rather an honest portrayal of a man who masked his monstrous tendencies behind a charismatic façade.
You can judge for yourself if Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile goes too far in glamorizing its subject though when the film joins Conversations with a Killer on Netflix later this year.