Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and a lot of Criticism

Director Joe Berlinger is behind the scenes of the new movie based on the 1970’s serial killer, Ted Bundy. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile stars Zac Efron and Lily Collins as Ted Bundy and Elizabeth Kloepfer. Although this isn’t Berlinger’s first project focusing on Bundy, the film has been faced with criticism on Bundy’s overall portrayal.

​Ted Bundy confessed to murdering over thirty women in the 1970s in the states of Washington, Utah, Oregon, Idaho, Florida, Colorado and California. Bundy was described as an extremely bright and charming man. He graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in psychology, later pursuing law school at the University of Puget Sound and the University of Utah. He created an environment of fear in Washington when women began disappearing at a rapid rate, leaving virtually no footprint in his crimes. Bundy was executed in 1989 in a Florida prison.


Berlinger told Vulture that Bundy seduced multiple of his victims due to his charismatic personality and calls him a ‘three-dimensional human-being’ that he wanted to explore. Although Berlinger now has two projects about the serial killer, he notes that he still doesn’t understand why he committed the murders but does understand how people like Bundy can exist.

Berlinger’s first Bundy related project, a Netflix four-part documentary titled Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, explores Bundy’s interviews in the third person, the only way the killer could discuss his crimes. The docu-series includes present-day interviews as well as audio and footage from when Bundy was on death row. The series essentially explores how Bundy wanted himself to be portrayed. The series itself can be considered a prelude to the movie and overall received neutral reviews. Former news reporter Ward Lucas, who was present during Bundy’s reign of terror, noted that the documentary stays true to the facts.


Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 26th, 2019. It follows Bundy’s relationship with Elizabeth Kloepfer, played by Lily Collins. The film takes the audience into Kloepfer’s mind and perspective as her romantic relationship with Bundy progresses throughout his murders in the 70s and ultimately narrows into the betrayal and emotional rollercoaster she experienced.

Much of the criticism the film has received on social media comes from the idea that it is glorifying Bundy and forgetting about the numerous victims. Many on Twitter even went as far as criticizing Efron for taking on the role of Bundy and reopening the wounds and terror that family members of the victims faced decades ago.  The trailer depicts an alluring Bundy who charms Kloepfer and even has some sort of relationship with her daughter. This itself really triggered much of the negative response from the public before the movie even premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.


On the other hand, Emily Tannenbaum from Cosmopolitan states that the film is nowhere near what the trailer sells you. The film itself explicitly shows how Bundy’s charming nature led to him luring numerous victims, including Elizabeth Kloepfer, who spent seven years dating Bundy. Tannenbaum notes that there are no graphic murders or even sexualization of his crimes. The Netflix docu-series focuses on Bundy and the murders, as well as his psychopathic nature, bringing in those involved in the investigation; the film, on the other hand, focuses on the psychological view of Bundy and the emotional view that Kloepfer experiences. Some reviews have praised Efron for his convincing role as Bundy, though notice that much of the film is lackluster and doesn’t necessarily mention much, if any of Bundy’s murders, focusing once again on Kloepfer and his’ relationship.

Regardless of your opinion on the film and series, it is important to note and remember the victims. A trailer can’t necessarily portray an entire movie, though I will agree on the fact that it can be perceived as romanticizing Ted Bundy with Berlinger’s intent to demonstrate his charm, of which is apparently done so throughout the film.  It offers a view into one of many of Bundy’s victims’ mind. Tannenbaum does believe the film brings on an important question: if you were in bed with a monster, would you know it?