Zac Efron headlines this Netflix true-crime drama as serial killer Ted Bundy, and it’s his chilling performance that will draw you in to the life of this extremely wicked, shockingly evil, and vile individual.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is a look at the life and trials of Ted Bundy and how his girlfriend Liz Kendall (Lily Collins) chooses to deal with all of the allegations which are threatening to tear them apart. What sets this film apart from other serial killer stories is the way it decides to present this narrative in a pretty unconventional manner and focuses on specific parts of his life that aren’t the killings.
The story of the life of Ted Bundy is an interesting one. As one of the most notorious serial killers in history his story is a prominent one with a lot of details readily available online. With that, the film takes a unique approach to telling his story. It focuses exclusively on the trials and allegations against Bundy, his reactions, and how it affects his relationships with those in his life. Despite not delving into the more gruesome content it’s still a very dark and grim film as the subject matter is heavily cemented in that tone. However it’s not as effective as intended as on more than one occasion, it does leave you wanting a little more. It’s very choppy in that it jumps around a lot, skips a lot of time, and leaves a large chunk of the story to be told through assumptions in dialogue. The odd pacing takes a while to get used to and that only hurts the first half of the film as you get accustomed to the many time-jumps.
The focus of the film being more on the relationship between Bundy and Kendall and their back and forth throughout the story as oppose to the killings is great. If the scope of the story was limited to some of the more later moments in their journey, cutting out some of the earlier story beats, it would have made for a tighter end-result without as much jumping around, thus avoiding repetitive scenarios. There was a lot of potential here with the talent involved and rich story content, but it feels like it wasn’t capitalised on within the runtime it was given.
The highlight of the film and reason you should check this one out is Zac Efron’s performance which may be the best of his career. He captures all of the known traits of the character and presents him on screen as this hauntingly charming individual who always seems to be hiding something behind an alluring smile. He is so terrifyingly captivating throughout every scene you can’t help but feel uneasy whenever he’s on-screen. Zac Efron isn’t a terrifying guy, in fact he’s almost always the good guy or the hot guy, never the villain. But here he transforms into this evil individual without even altering his appearance. It’s all in the performance and it’s a strong one at that.
Now, concerning screen time, Efron may be front and centre but Lily Collins gets nearly as much, if not the same amount, as he does and she uses that time exquisitely. The difference between the two characters is that Collins’ Liz has the audience on her side so there’s instantly a sympathetic approach to how you view her character. But Collins is outstanding in the role. Unlike Efron’s performance which is somewhat emotionally void as per his character, Collins’ performance is emotionally intensive and requires a lot from her. She impresses and does a lot to enhance the film alongside Efron. Of the supporting characters, no one really has enough to do to make a real impact. John Malkovich is a masterclass and does a lot with very few lines, and Jim Parsons actually makes you see through his Big Bang Theory character for the duration of his scenes.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is a film fitting for Netflix considering the fascination the company has with true-crime stories. If you’re up for watching something creepy one night and want to check out two incredible performances in the process then this is a great option. The way it tells the story and jumps around can be jarring and have you scrambling to figure out how much time has passed between jumps, but if you can get past that it’s a satisfying watch.