The hype around Extremely Wicked was centered on seeing Zac Efron play Ted Bundy, but the way the story is told is what makes it a must-see.
We’ve all seen serial killer movies and they all focus on one of two sides. The point of view of the killer, the point of view of the investigators, or both. The problem with the approach here is that in telling the story from the killer’s point of view, you often show them stalking victims or even the murders themselves. Many find this disrespectful to the victims and their families as it makes what was likely the worst time in their lives something meant to be sensational. In telling the stories through the investigators, this typically means showing up at crime scenes, distraught witnesses, pictures, or discussions about the crimes themselves. This has the same effect. Extremely Wicked keeps this to a minimum.
It’s impossible to tell the story of Ted Bundy without addressing the murders but I felt that Extremely Wicked did a good job of not sensationalizing the crimes and focusing on other things. Primarily, Ted’s girlfriend and the way she was affected.
The movie was based on Elizabeth Kendall’s book “The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy” so it was essential that it focus on her. Liz Kendall is played brilliantly by Lily Collins in Extremely Wicked.
In short, the movie shows their relationship from the day they met, to the last day that they ever saw each other. Throughout, we see how Zac Efron’s Bundy lies to her and tries to get her to commit to him as he is in the midst of being tried for various crimes. You watch her slowly break down as more and more details come out and she has to live with the idea that she may have been laying with a man who preyed on women. It had to be even more hurtful to know that she brought a man capable of these things into her home with her daughter.
Of course, the movie does hit some of the key Ted moments as well. Both escapes, the courtroom antics, the cameras, and the judge’s statement. These are all essential to the story as well. It also does bring in his last love interest Carole Anne Boone who is played by Kaya Scodelario (The Maze Runner trilogy). However, the story begins and ends with Liz and this is what made it stand out for me.
I’d be remiss to not mention Efron’s performance in Extremely Wicked. As I mentioned, it was what made the movie buzzworthy at the casting and many were curious if he could pull it off before they hit play. I personally feel that he did and amazingly so.
Many actors become household names because of one early major role and then spend the rest of their careers trying to shed that identity. Some never do, some embrace being typecast, some take dramatically different roles and fail while others take on these complex roles and flourish.
Jamie Foxx would be one huge example having gone from known and beloved comedian to an Oscar winner for Ray. Biopics seem to be the way to go to make this leap as it works here for Efron.
He’s still going to make a lot of money in comedies but if he does indeed want to take on more serious roles, this performance will take him a long way towards booking them.
I highly recommend Extremely Wicked if it’s not already clear. Great performances, an interesting angle, and a story that is made dramatic despite how well you may already know it. Add it to your list NOW.
Extremely Wicked is now streaming on Netflix.