You can’t move on the internet for people talking about Zac Efron’s ‘sexy’ portrayal of the serial killer Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile.
And while the plaudits are being sent in Efron’s direction for his against-type turn, many have been questioning the film’s very existence, with some arguing the film sensationalises the acts of a man that took the lives of more than 30 people.
Benjamin Lee in The Guardian concluded: ‘It’s a star vehicle that starts and ends with its star, the film around him struggling to justify its existence. Efron is wicked, the film less so.’
Now director Joe Berlinger, who also directed the Netflix series The Ted Bundy Tapes, has come out to defend his film. Not only is he not holding back with criticisms of his critics, but he highlights concerning behaviours with crying foul of films that upset sensibilities.
Berlinger told 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.
The director behind the Paradise Lost trilogy and Brother’s Keeper acknowledges his work is morally iffy and calls attention towards the advocacy he’s endeavoured to infuse in his filmmaking, championing the wrongly accused and pushing for criminal justice reform.
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.
But just because bad things have happened to people, Berlinger is staunchly against the idea Extremely Wicked or any other narrative portrayal of Bundy should not be made out of respect to those whose lives were destroyed.
Berlinger highlighted how relevant this stance is at this current point:
Look, there have been a lot of movies about Adolf Hitler and about the Holocaust, but if somebody were to have a new angle as a way of illuminating some aspect of the human condition or aspect of that particular story…
I think telling filmmakers any subject matter is off limits is a very slippery slope that leads us to Trump declaring that the media is ‘fake news,’ I think there should be no censoring of subject matter, if it’s done responsibly. And even if it’s done irresponsibly, people have the right to tell any story they want to tell.
The way in which the story is told in Extremely Wicked through the perspective of Bundy’s ex-girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer shows how someone could appear so innocent when conducting such atrocious acts. ‘That’s a lesson you can’t learn enough and a very valid lesson to put it out to the world,’ Berlinger added.
And because the movie declines to show the vast majority of Bundy’s heinous acts, Berlinger noted, ‘you can’t win.’
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Tim Horner is a sub-editor at UNILAD. He graduated with a BA Journalism from University College Falmouth before most his colleagues were born. A previous editor of adult mags, he now enjoys bringing the tone down in the viral news sector.