It was below 30 degrees in Park City, Utah, but that didn’t stop audiences from lining up several hours before the doors opened to the worldwide premiere of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile directed by Joe Berlinger, based on the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy (Zac Efron) who relied on his charm and handsomeness to lure in young women and then brutally murder them. Maybe it was because of Ted Bundy’s connection to the state of Utah, or perhaps due to the casting of Hollywood heartthrob Zac Efron to play the serial killer. Or maybe it was attributable to Netflix’s Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes also directed by Berlinger releasing two days prior to the premiere, but the anticipation in the theater for this film electrified the atmosphere.
The plot of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is adapted from the memoir The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy by Bundy’s former longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer (Lily Collins). The film begins with her first encounter of the serial killer at a bar and follows her over a span of six years until Kloepfer’s last meeting with Bundy before his execution. It is through her eyes that an audience can even fathom how someone could love a man like Ted Bundy, and how hard it can be to break free from his grasp.
Audiences familiar with Zac Efron from teen romance and comedy roles, such as High School Musical, Hair Spray, and Neighbors, will be shocked by this complete role reversal. People second-guessing Efron will be genuinely surprised as the actor lives up to the title of the film. Throughout the film, you see him as a loving boyfriend and charmer, but it is noticeable that there is a certain wickedness beneath his smile. It isn’t the violent acts in the film that will send chills down your spine, but the way he looks at his potential victims. Overall, there are a few scenes that might take you out of it due to Efron’s physical body appearance and looks compared to the real-life Bundy, but his performance is worth the praise.
Zac Efron fans and people interested in the serial killer Ted Bundy will become entranced by the almost unbelievable acts in the film, but it is Lily Collins career-defining role as Elizabeth Kloepfer that keeps the film grounded. Her performance from head over heels girlfriend to emotionally distraught ex-lover makes it easy for audiences to attach to her character as she represents the humanity of the film.
The film doesn’t romanticize the relationship of the two lovers or humanize Bundy as it serves as a reminder that extremely wicked, shockingly evil and vile acts are carried out by the people you least expect. They even go so far as to show you real photos of the crime scenes and the innocent faces of those who fell victim to his rampage. The discourse around Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile will undoubtedly focus on the looks of Ted Bundy and the star who portrays him when released on Netflix on May 3rd, but the ending credits are sure to remind you of those we should really be talking about and honoring – the victims.