For a film about Ted Bundy – the serial killer synonymous with deception who confessed on death row to murdering at least 30 women throughout the 1970s – Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile certainly benefits from showing almost no violence whatsoever. For most of its runtime, it’s careful not to exploit the heinous nature of Bundy’s crimes, and commendably so. But that also makes for a rare and frustrating viewing experience, in that its shortcomings don’t steam from an unawareness of what it wants to say, but rather an indecisiveness in choosing how it wants to say it.
Directed by Joe Berlinger, Extremely Wicked examines how the murderer efficiently blinded almost everyone to the truth – a truth he withheld almost right up until his death. He did this with a mix of smarts, charisma and just a general charm that drew a lot of people into his lies.
But according to star Zac Efron, there’s something else that was working in Bundy’s favor, too. Speaking in a recent interview, the actor said that white privilege helped Ted get away with murder for so long.
“Ted Bundy is a vile, vile human being. There is no part of this at all… I can’t express how much I loathe the man that this movie is about,” he said. “The fact is that this movie really happened. The fact is that the whole world, literally, all the media, everybody, was capable of believing that this guy was innocent. Talk about white privilege, talk about white… whatever. Every major topic in this movie is bent on showing you how evil this person is.”
While that comment is sure to stir up some discussion, the film itself has been swamped in controversy as well for what people are calling a “hot” portrayal of the serial killer, with many saying that Extremely Wicked glorifies Bundy and his horrific acts. Efron, Berlinger and even one of Bundy’s survivors have all come forward to argue that the movie is an honest reflection of a man who hid his monstrous tendencies behind a charming façade, and whether you agree with that or not, we imagine this film will continue to find itself in hot water for a little while longer.
As far as quality goes, the critical reception to Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile has been a little mixed, but you can judge for yourself if it’s worth a watch as it’s now available to stream on Netflix.