There are two entities that are “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” in the movie: one’s Ted Bundy, the other is all around you.
When Ted Bundy was being sentenced to death by Edward Cowart, the judge left the only words that best explain Bundy’s crimes: “extremely wicked, shockingly evil and vile.” These words will later be the title to the movie based on a memoir by Elizabeth Kendall, Ted Bundy’s former girlfriend, The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy. This will have already established the fact which any viewer will negate with as the film plays through. Everything that makes this film dangerous makes it brilliant—Ted Bundy, a third-person’s perspective, and the media where the horrors play out.
The Man, Ted
Putting the film on Liz’s perspective almost humanizes Ted. This gives us the dangerous power to choose whether or not Ted is an actual monster. The pieces of evidence all pointed towards him from the very beginning. But Zac Efron displayed charm that will make you question Ted’s guilt.
Ted Bundy is not special. He’s your typical white guy who believes he’s above and beyond every single woman in the world. This alone has motivated him in killing his victims. Anyone who displays any kind of superiority towards him will surely find their last waking moment in his hands, ultimately becoming one of the many victims of the monster he is. What makes Zac’s portrayal wicked is how parallel and accurate his actions were with Ted Bundy. This will only later be proved at the end of the movie as actual clips of Ted Bundy and his trial are displayed as the credits roll.
Watching the film, my eyes were on Ted Bundy and how easily he could manipulate people, including Liz, into siding him. But as I attempt to recall the movie, I fail to remember him at all. His moments didn’t leave a mark. All except for the petrifying moment of his “confession” to Liz. When Liz asked Ted what happened to the head of one of his victims found in the woods, he wrote down “HACKSAW” on the foggy glass in between them. That moment would tear any viewer to pieces—a seemingly vulnerable Ted telling Liz he’s innocent later brings out a confession with a stern look on his face. He later erases the word from the mirror as Detective Mike Fisher comes in. “You need to release me,” Liz says and to Ted’s answer has she been freed? She may have only gotten a piece of the truth, enough to wake her up from the nightmare that is Ted.
The Woman, Liz
The pain and torment Liz went through would be incomparable to those of the victims. But this doesn’t invalidate the stress she’s experienced under the thumb of a serial killer. The movie opens with Ted (Zac Efron) and Liz (Lily Collins) meeting at a college bar, hitting it off instantly. It was a magical moment and for a split second, you’d think this was a romantic movie. That is, until it cuts to the moment a glass divides them both, telephone on each other’s hands. Before this moment comes, Liz is never in control of her own self. There is a hand around her neck and a little smile from Ted sends her back to the moment she fell in love with a monster she couldn’t believe lived with her and her daughter under one roof.
Lily Collins, one of the most underrated stars of her generation deserves recognition in her portrayal of Liz. Her emotions captured Liz’s denial about the truth, holding on to the last strand of hope that everything may be wrong. We do know that Liz was one of many women who have reported their boyfriends’ stark similarity on the serial killer on the loose. There are hundreds of reports filed about a “handsome white man with a 1968 Volkswagen Beetle”. Imagine the horror of the women living in their times—the fear of having been sleeping with the enemy. Though this is a fact stated at the beginning of any Ted Bundy narration, its later revelation in the film lets the audience see Liz’s pain on a different light. She’s engulfed in two different fears. What if she made a wrong call, putting Ted Bundy’s name in the list of suspects? But what if he is the serial killer? No woman deserves to be the subject of such pain and torment. But this is the very reason Ted keeps her under his control. She’s one of the women he feels superior with, unlike all the women who have fallen victim to his vile crimes.
Though taken from Liz’s perspective, it’s easy to tell that it still revolves around Ted and his crimes leaving us with a question. How can the plan of his escape and relationship with Carol Boone displayed in detail while his crimes are shrouded by the trials? Easily, we can say that the film is successful in putting us in Liz’s shoes. In the end, we’re faced with the fact that this isn’t about the truth. It’s Ted Bundy and his crimes from a third-person perspective.
The Witness, Media
Ted Bundy’s whole trial was aired on TV. The reason for which was never known. Probably to reach his victims, all found on different states in the US. Let’s just say that it pioneered televised trials in the US. Carol Boone, mother to Ted’s child told the media, “It’s obvious the media’s already convicted Ted before he’s had his day in court,” all of which were seen orchestrated and scripted by Ted and Carol before the guerilla interview. She adds, “To broadcast it on a national stage, it’s the first step in undercutting the judicial system because it makes it about getting ratings, not about getting the truth.”
This only adds a layer of fear and danger in revisiting cases like these. Everyone has been obsessed with stories as such, told over and over in every medium people can. It’s on TV, the internet, and the newspapers. There are lessons to be taken away from such events. But victims should also be put into consideration. It opens up wounds that have long been attempting to heal. ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’ is a follow-up on Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. These films are directed by Joe Berlinger. Both of which have explored different sides of the story—Ted, Liz, Carol, journalists and public servants who all have worked on and around the case—including one survivor. All stories almost parallel that of the truth as proven in court, but at what cost?
The dangers of this film only rests on the fact that it allows us to see Ted on a different light. He’s not a monster in this film. Here, we see him as a lover, a step-father, a son, and a defendant. Thirty years since his death, we’re still looking at him in this light. We are barely seeing the monster that left deep wounds in the families of the women he has killed. Watching this movie, it has to be kept in mind that he is a monster who’s done heinous crimes. Though told in the eyes of the person who has loved him, it should leave you no room to feel bad for him. But as cautious as you may be, failure might be just around the corner.