The recent trailer for “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” starring Zac Efron as infamous serial killer Ted Bundy, leaves viewers with an uncomfortable perception of the criminal.
It's evident that America has a fascination with murder mysteries by the popularity of podcasts and documentaries about serial killers and crime stories. But when it comes to these true crime stories, the storyteller needs to proceed with caution.
The new Ted Bundy film is the perfect example of what not to do. Bundy, a serial killer and rapist, gets a flashy and fictionalized movie.
Bundy brutally took away the voices of more than 30 women, and they will never have the chance to share their stories. The best way to honor these victims is to tell the full story and leave out the fictionalized drama. Instead, the victims’ families are reminded of the murders of their daughters, sisters and best friends every time they see the trailer with upbeat music and Efron’s wink.
The premise of “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” is to show Bundy’s life from the perspective of Elizabeth Kloepfer, his girlfriend at the time. The storyline is based off Kloepfer’s book “The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy.” The trailer portrays a passionate love story with a dark side. It’s entertaining, but doesn’t attempt to reveal the complexity of the situation.
Kloepfer is a victim herself. Bundy manipulated her into thinking he was an intelligent law student with a promising future and she trusted him enough to bring her daughter into their lives. If approached differently, the movie could have been a powerful example of a harmful and manipulative relationship.
Instead, the trailer makes Kloepfer is portrayed as a desperate, love-struck girlfriend. In reality, she ended up being a huge asset in Bundy’s arrest. She was brave enough to go to the police with her suspicions and that alone takes an incredible amount of strength.
Kloepfer could have been the heroine of the movie. Instead, according to Vox’s analysis, the movie fails to give insight into Kloepfer’s life both before and during her relationship with Bundy.
Unfortunately, both sexual assault and unhealthy romantic relationships are still problems today. The movie could’ve had a powerful and resonating message if it dug deeper into the serious issues.
Bundy was known for being attractive and charismatic, which sets him apart from the typical serial killer stereotype. The question is: Does the movie take this too far?
Sure, Bundy deceived those close to him by portraying a put-together lifestyle, but his charisma could only go so far.
This doesn’t mean the victims were so swooned by his charm that they fell right into his lap. Bundy followed women at night, broke into apartments and impersonated authorities. He stalked and kidnapped his victims.
Carol DaRonch, who survived a Bundy kidnapping, immediately knew something was wrong. Her intuition was greater than his skilled deception. The other women probably felt the same sense of uncertainty, but didn’t have the opportunity to escape.
Focusing on Bundy’s attractiveness portrays his victims as weak and naive. His complex personality cannot be described without both his charm and creepiness.
If Bundy were alive in a jail cell today, he would probably be enthralled to be played by Zac Efron in a blockbuster film. That should be unsettling.
That is not to say the story should not be told. Bundy is a unique example, to say the least. But if the movie is simply for entertainment then it is doing more harm than good.