Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile review – Zac Efron has murderous charm

Joe Berlinger’s drama examines serial killer Ted Bundy through the eyes of the two women who loved him

The very beautiful can get away with murder – or at least, in this case, they believe they can. This portrait of Ted Bundy from Joe Berlinger, who previously directed a documentary series on the killer, takes as its angle the idea that Bundy’s looks and formidable personal charm were in fact one of his most lethal weapons.

As played by Zac Efron, Bundy has the slick, plasticised appeal of a Ken doll; he flashes a toothy smile that can be flicked on and off like a sun lamp. It’s a skin-deep approach that is more interested in the two women (played by Lily Collins and Kaya Scodelario) who loved him enough to doubt his guilt, even to the last moment, than it is in exploring Bundy’s psychology and the impulses that drove him to kill. And to a certain extent, it’s this approach that makes this one of the more palatable serial killer pictures of recent years; it at least spares us the lascivious interest in the mechanics of murder with which Lars von Trier and Fatih Akin furtively self-pleasured themselves in, respectively, The House That Jack Built and The Golden Glove.

But while the period details are slavishly recreated, there’s an absence when it comes to character details for the two women, particularly Bundy’s wife, Carole Ann Boone (Scodelario). We know she moved to Florida to be near him, we know she married him in prison. What the film fails to explore is why.

Watch a trailer for Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.


Wendy Ide

The GuardianTramp

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