After much press and publicity, hype and skepticism, Zac Efron’s turn as Ted Bundy is finally coming to a wider audience next week.
The film, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile, has received both positive reviews – especially for Efron’s performance as the notorious killer – but also reservation from many people, who are keen to make sure the film doesn’t glamourise serial killers.
As anyone who has seen the recent documentary, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, will know, despite his hideous crimes, Ted attracted a number of women. He even got married in court while on trial for multiple murders. Paired with the casting of Efron, who has mostly been known for his roles as a heart-throb, some people questioned how the new film would portray the serial killer.
You can watch the trailer for Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile here:
Director Joe Berlinger, who also directed the Netflix documentary series, has defended his film and characterisation of Bundy though, telling Bustle:
I think the idea of this particular story, making a movie about Bundy, equals glorification of him is a very naive and knee-jerk reaction.
Because if you actually watch the movie, the last thing we’re doing is glorifying him. He gets his due at the end, but we’re portraying the experience of how one becomes a victim to that kind of psychopathic seduction.
Of course, the director is well aware of the dubious moral grey area the film could fall into.
I am highly aware of the hypocrisy that I myself participate in, about the nature of of true crime filmmaking is that, at the end of the day, we’re making entertainment out of other people’s tragedy.
While Efron was also aware of the risk of sexualising a serial killer, he embraced the change in role for himself. In doing so, however, it took its toll on his mental health.
Asked about the effect on his mentality during the film, the actor told Metro:
That was put to the test for this one. I’ve never played a role in which I have to separate myself. It was almost impossible. I would like to say I did that successfully, but I couldn’t.
And, regarding the portrayal of serial killer, Zac added:
I’m not in the business of glamourising such a horrendous person or his acts.
But there is something unique about the way going into the psyche of Ted and his longtime girlfriend Liz, it’s a different perspective and not your run-of-the-mill serial killer, cliche, bodycount gets higher and higher and “oh the guy you always knew did it” [film]. It was what it was like to be there on the day.
The film tells the story of the infamous murderer from the perspective of his longtime girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer, played by Lily Collins.
Netflix reportedly paid a staggering $9 million for the US distribution rights for the film, so will it be an intriguing portrayal or an unnecessary glamourisation?
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile hits UK cinemas and Sky Cinema on May 3. It also drops on Netflix US the same day.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.