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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jul 19, 2019


zac efron as ted bundy and jim parsons as his prosecuting attorney

one of the best scenes in the movie

ZAC EFRON is a heartthrob best known for the musicals and comedies he did like “High School Musical”, “The Greatest Showman”, “Baywatch”. He now transforms himself playing a real life criminal in “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”, an account of the grisly crimes of Theodore “Ted” Bundy, an infamous serial killer who murdered about 30 women in the 70s.

The movie is based on Elizabeth Kendall’s 1981 memoir, “The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy”, so it’s told mainly from her point of view. Liz (played by Lily Collins), is Bundy’s long time girlfriend who cannot believe the accusations against him.

This makes it different from the usual analytical biopic or TV docus on mass murderers. We are actually spared details of Bundy’s twisted and gruesome crimes. The script centers on the relationship of the killer with Liz, a single mother when they met in Seattle in 1969 as Bundy’s grisly acts of killing young women was just beginning.

Liz works as a secretary who’s afraid she’ll never find a man since she already has a child. Then she meets Bundy, a former law student who works as a bartender in a bar and knows how to detect lonely women like her. She takes him home but they don’t indulge in sex. In the morning, she is charmed when he prepares breakfast for her with an apron while taking care of her daughter.

This guy is just too good to be true and it’s easy to see why she was quickly swept off her feet. Then, he becomes a suspect in cases involving missing persons. We feel Liz’ growing suspicion as the evidence against him piles up. We can also sense her fright that she might be living with a man who did horrible things as shown in the news.

Her happy relationship with Bundy is shown in home movie footage and this is intercut with news reports of girls being brazenly abducted and showing up dead, with police sketches of the suspected culprit looking like her boyfriend.

Bundy is not shown committing the actual crimes, so the film should be commended as it cannot be accused of just exploting the heinous acts of Bundy. This captures the criminal’s hazy, muddled persona, a void where a human being should be.

You get the feeling that he is really concealing his true nature and when he claims that he’s wrongly accused, he truly believes it. We are not shown his dark secret life, just like the way Liz sees him as his smokescreen is so thick to mask his true self.

Eventually, he is arrested and charged in 1975 but gets to escape from jail twice until he is arrested in Florida. He becomes a celebrity of sorts as women are attracted to him. He chooses to be his own lawyer in his murder trial in Florida and it became the first one to be shown live on television.

The Bundy case hit the headlines worldwide and if you were already around in the 70s, you could not have ignored it, including the trial that lasted until the 80s.

The movie now provides surprising details about the case that will keep you engrossed all throughout. Director Joe Berlinger manages to somehow explore Bundy’s psyche and the results can be quite disturbing.

You leave the movie house with a clearer view of how truly evil Bundy is as you witness the suffering he has caused not only to his victims and their families, but also the pscyhological damage he has done to those who have loved him, like Liz, who should somehow still be thankful as she’s alive, she survived!

Zac Efron (who’s also credited as a producer) gives a chilling, crackerjack performance as the two-faced Bundy, who can be treacherous but can also charm everyone with an easy smile. Lily Collins gives a controlled portrayal of Liz and she handles her character’s descent into alcoholism admirably.

They can both be nominated for awards but the film has already been released digitally by Netflix, so we don’t if they’d still be eligible.

Giving them great support are Haley Joel Osment (the “Sixth Sense” boy is now a grownup, bearded and corpulent) as Jerry, Liz’ co-worker who helps her when she is down; Kate Scodelario as Carole Anne who becomes Bundy’s girlfriend and later, wife, while he was imprisoned in Florida; Jim Parsons as the prosecuting attorney and John Malkovich as Judge Edward Cowart who delivers the movie’s long title in his remarks while giving his sentence to perfectly describe Bundy’s dastard deeds. He even adds that Bundy’s criminal acts is “the product of a design to inflict a high degree of pain and utter indifference to human life.”

At the end credits, as they showed film footage of the real Ted Bundy, they list down the names of all his victims and you can’t help but feel so sad why it took so long for the cops to detect and catch him. He denied everything and admits to nothing, but days before his death sentence was carried out, he admits guilt over his crimes.

He was executed on the electric chair on January 14, 1989, exactly 30 years ago. And serial killers continue to exist in the U.S, some of them remaining unidentified like the Daytona Beach Killer, the Chillicote Ohio Killer, the Long Island Killer, and many more. How terrifying, isn’t it?