The 2019 movie Extremely Wicked and Shockingly Evil and Vile starring Zac Efron and Lily Collins has sparked controversy and received conflicting opinions from viewers. Those against the film argue the writers romanticized Ted Bundy and downplayed his violence against women. Instead, I believe the movie sought to show aspects of Bundy’s life other than his murders to explain how his loved ones and the public struggled to accept he was capable of committing such violence. Extremely Wicked and Shockingly Evil and Vile focused specifically on Bundy’s long-term girlfriend Liz Kendall, played by Lily Collins, who carried too much guilt for being a victim herself.
If you haven’t seen the film, Extremely Wicked and Shockingly Evil and Vile follows Ted Bundy from the beginning of his criminal behavior until his execution from the perspective of his long-term girlfriend, Liz. Due to their intimacy and her alcoholism, Liz refused to see the truth about him for years. Bundy was able to manipulate and lie to her throughout his murder spree and the trial process by building the reputation of being a respectful young man studying law. Since it took her years to accept what Bundy had done, Liz felt extremely guilty despite doing nothing wrong.
Zac Efron was the perfect casting choice. Bundy was able to lure so many victims because of his charisma and kept his charm until his death. Many people, and largely young women, maintained their belief in Bundy’s innocence because he did not look the part of the serial killer. Casting Efron in this role helped viewers understand how the serial killer was able to regularly lure in young women.
Additionally, Zac Efron accurately portrays Bundy’s dark side, which is accentuated by his facial expressions. He captures the sinister look of a man capable of such bloodshed while verbally denying his role in the murders for nearly the entire length of the movie. Viewers can watch Efron imitate a look of pure evil.
I enjoyed Extremely Wicked and Shockingly Evil and Vile’s concentration on Liz’s life because it shows how wide and deep Bundy’s impact was. During her relationship with him, she was an alcoholic, which allowed him to easily manipulate her. When they first met, Liz was a single mother with a young daughter and Bundy cared for both of them. To her, Bundy was one in a million. Their intimacy worked to his advantage once the law caught up to him because she upheld his innocence through a portion of the trial process. On the other hand, Bundy’s roots in Liz’s life made accepting reality all the more difficult. She felt that she played a role in Bundy’s crimes because she didn’t notice what he was doing. I felt sorry for Liz and found it difficult to watch how much she was affected by Bundy’s manipulation. The focus on her pain shows the audience how impactful Ted Bundy’s actions were to those who previously considered him a good person.
Overall, I would recommend Extremely Wicked and Shockingly Evil and Vile. I believe the writers create a dramatic retelling of Ted Bundy and Liz Kendall’s life that shows the pain throughout his murder spree and trial without romanticizing his personhood. This movie contains minimal violence and only shows one of Bundy’s murders on camera. Mainly, the film wants to show us why so many people believed Ted Bundy to be innocent despite outstanding evidence against him.