Zac Efron is disturbingly charming as the serial killer, Ted Bundy. Imagine driving home one day and suddenly getting arrested for an accused abduction and murder. All the local newspapers have your face on the front cover as a convicted murderer. There’s nowhere you can go without getting strange looks by everyone around you. You remain brought to federal prison while awaiting your trial. But you have no choice but to defend yourself from a crime you insist you did not commit. This description matches any number of Hollywoodized crime dramas; having audiences root for the innocent victim. Netflix’s EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE is not like your typical Hollywood story. Instead, viewers are diving deep into the mind of the psychopathic serial killer, Ted Bundy.

Just an Ordinary Fella Getting Too Comfortable with This Family

EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE is told entirely from the perspective of Ted Bundy (Zac Efron) and the love of his life, Liz (Lily Collins). The movie starts with Liz’s viewpoint on how she met Ted. All she sees is a loving man who’s eager to take on the fatherly role of her daughter. Not a moment goes by where Liz would ever imagine her fiance harming anyone. As the audience already knows the true identity of Ted Bundy, we all see what’s genuinely behind his mask.

Zac Efron and Lily Collins
Courtesy of IMDB

Who wouldn’t sympathize with a smile like that? Zac Efron perfectly embodies everything that people saw in Ted Bundy. From the very moment he is onscreen, you see both the charm and the violence in his eyes. Without a single ounce of force, Efron’s multi-layered performance brings chills down the audience’s spines. This dramatic role is what Efron was born to play. He brings everything that this performance needed for this psychopathic man.

Before shifting focus from Liz to Ted, in every tiny motion, Efron performs coveys two opposite viewpoints. From Liz’s perspective, she sees a caring man willing to wake up early and feed her daughter some breakfast. The audience, though, feels the disturbing implications of how comfortable this man is getting with this single mother and child. The moment you assume the entire story is through Liz’s eyes, the focus completely shifts to Bundy’s genuinely innocent mindset. Instantly, I am utterly captivated by the direction this biopic was taking. Efron and director Joe Berlinger manage to bring sympathy and compassion to this extremely wicked, shockingly evil and vile man.

A Charming Face Like That Could Never Murder Someone

The disturbing ability to make audiences sympathize with a killer is genuinely productive, yet haunting. As the narrative starts in the middle of the story, the actual crimes are never onscreen; just accused of by the authorities. Like Liz, there is never a moment where the audience sees Bundy as an out-of-control criminal with disturbing tendencies.

For the majority of the runtime, the focus is on Bundy trying to convey himself as an innocent victim. Honestly, I would be rooting for Bundy’s release if I didn’t know this was based on a true story. However, I am aware that Ted Bundy is beyond guilty, which gives the entire narrative a completely fresh perspective.

Any other Hollywood crime drama would have Zac Efron playing Ted Bundy as violent and disturbing. A typical Hollywood biopic would make it very clear that he was guilty from the very first moment he was onscreen. Berlinger went in a different direction from the story; Berlinger showed how Bundy remained truly represented through the media: as charming, attractive, and intelligent. The viewer is watching the movie as if they are one of the college girls in the courtroom audience buying into Bundy’s charm.

Breaking Free with Efron as Bundy

Efron is a talented and appropriate choice for the role. His career and persona are also emphasizing how young girls saw Ted Bundy while on trial. Casting Troy Bolton from HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL is such an ideal casting to instantly represent the media perspective on Bundy. Zac Efron started his career off as the pretty face of the Disney Channel, where young girls immediately fell in love with him. Efron was a pop culture icon in the late 2000s that women fantasized over. Imagine this public image now, but connected to a serial killer.

High school musical
Courtesy of WhoMagazine

A decade later, the HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL generation has grown up, and Zac Efron has become a more respected actor. However, deep down, everyone associates Efron as Troy Bolton. Berlinger and Efron use Efron’s public identity to emphasize even more how the public viewed Ted Bundy. While being on trial for the murder of two sorority students, the courtroom is full of college girls connecting with the attractive serial killer. Right as these women fantasize, while rejecting the notion of Bundy as a killer, it ironically calls back the reaction to his HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL role.

Connecting the innocent HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL with the disturbing EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE perfectly reflects the unsettling tone of the film. By the end of the final product, everyone knows the true identity under the mask of Ted Bundy. Surprisingly, though, Berlinger and Efron managed to genuinely reflect the sympathy that Bundy was trying to hide behind. As the movie builds on its big confrontation between Liz and Ted, the big question that needs answering is: What was the exact mindset behind Bundy? Was he a compulsive liar or did he genuinely not believe he committed these crimes?

Disturbing With Barely a Drop of Blood

One element that the audience will leave disappointed by is the lack of shown evidence of the crimes. Mainly, the film barely shows Bundy committing any of the murders. Instead, his sinister persona remains unveiled through newspaper headlines and descriptive testimonies. This description might appear to be a flaw in the film, as what made Bundy so disturbing was his violent nature. Showing all the brutal murders would add to the unsettling tone. However, it would have gone against the image that Berlinger establishes with Bundy.

Zac Efron
Courtesy of TV and Movie News

EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE succeeds at bringing chills down your spin without having to rely on violence to do so. Similar to the original trailer for Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, the disturbing elements are left to the viewers’ imagination to fill in the pieces. Even more frightening than a violent murder is having your imagination fill in the missing parts to make it even more gruesome.

This movie will bring out a lot of controversy for sympathizing with the serial killer. Seeing how the film is being released on Netflix, the controversial tone might be too much for theatrical distribution. However, this unique tone makes the overall product more memorable. I have never felt more disturbed by a biopic than with this film. EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE is worth a watch to dive deep into the unsettling mind of Ted Bundy.

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