One of the most hotly anticipated films of this year’s Sundance Film Festival is Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, Joe Berlinger’s Ted bundy movie, focusing on the perspective of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, who dealt with the fallout of finding out her seemingly perfect partner was America’s most notorious serial killer. Lily Collins plays Elizabeth, John Malkovich is Judge Edward Cowart and a host of familiar faces fill out the cast. But, of course, the main draw is Zac Efron as the man himself.
The trailer has proven divisive online. The peppy music and ‘cool’ aesthetic feel discomfiting to some, myself included. It’s a strange way to introduce a story about a man so infamous and cruel, like it’s about to go all I, Tonya on us. However, there is something to be said for a version of this story that seeks to show just how Bundy charmed over so many people and the power he held over many, even as he was on trial. The director is no fool either. This is the guy who directed some of the most iconic true crime documentaries of our time, including Brother’s Keeper and the Paradise Lost trilogy. He’s also the director of Netflix’s Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, which premiered yesterday. He clearly knows this material and has no desire to turn Bundy into some folk hero. His work is far too invested in justice to let that happen. We hope he pulls this off.
As for Zefron as Bundy? Well, that’s just him carrying on a proud tradition. There’s a weird minor pop culture phenomenon wherein the heart-throbs of the day play Bundy. Remember when Mark Harmon did so in the same year he was People’s Sexiest Man Alive? And he did that when Bundy was still alive! There’s no better way to show your dramatic chops and distance yourself from your hunky image than to go psycho, and given how much Bundy’s apparent charisma and handsomeness played into his thrall, it’s not hard to see why this would be a dream role for Efron.