Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman review – pointless portrait of a serial killer

This voyeuristic drama about the FBI hunt for Bundy makes his victims indistinguishable and leaves a nasty taste in the mouth

I couldn’t stomach this pointless and dull drama about the FBI hunt for loathsome serial killer Ted Bundy. It comes on the heels of the Zac Efron biopic and Netflix’s documentary series based on prison tape recordings with Bundy, who eventually confessed to murdering more than 30 women (and was suspected by police of killing many more). What this film adds to the Bundy frenzy is a portrait of the serial killer at work: driving around in his VW Beetle stalking and abducting young victims. It’s not that these slickly shot scenes are particularly gruesome, but they do feel cheap and voyeuristic. We watch his unsuspecting young victims, oblivious to what’s coming. Look, he’s behind you!

That said, Chad Michael Murray is a more convincing Bundy than Zac Efron; he plays it bland, dreary and dull, more inadequate. Even his nice-ordinary-guy charm has a skin-crawling quality. The film goes to some lengths to show off Bundy’s predator instincts. In the first murder shown, he uses a prop: hobbling on crutches in a car park pretending to have an injured leg. He makes a show of dropping his car keys. The victim – he preys on kindness – bends down, on her hands and knees to retrieve his keys from under the car. Another time he impersonates a cop to lure a teenager into his car. This is every woman’s worst nightmare. We watch the fear on their faces as they realise what’s happening. Do we really need to see it over and over again? It doesn’t help that the victims are mostly indistinguishable – an interchangeable series of pretty young white brunettes.

Investigating Bundy is cop Kathleen McChesney (Holland Roden) and FBI agent Robert Ressler (Jake Hays), a lightweight duo who stare furrow-eyebrowed at photos of blood-stained mattresses and bashed-in decomposed skulls. Honestly, there is no earthly reason for the existence of this film; it might work for the Bundyphiles but it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth for everyone else.

• Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman is released on 6 December on digital platforms.


Cath Clarke

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Boston Strangler review – Keira Knightley serial-killer story tells fierce tale
Knightley and Carrie Coon star as journalists whose persistent reporting forced the cops and city hall to take notice of a series of murders of women in the early 1960s

Peter Bradshaw

16, Mar, 2023 @1:00 PM

Article image
Zac Efron to play Ted Bundy in film about American serial killer
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile will be directed by Joe Berlinger and be told from the point of view of Bundy’s girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer

Gwilym Mumford

16, May, 2017 @8:30 AM

Article image
The Good Nurse review – Jessica Chastain is out to catch Eddie Redmayne’s serial killer
Based on the real-life story of a nurse who apparently killed hundreds of patients, this is a creepily watchable thriller with the subtlest hint of Fatal Attraction

Peter Bradshaw

20, Oct, 2022 @8:00 AM

Article image
No Man of God review – edgy tête-à-tête with Ted Bundy
Director Amber Sealey manages to dodge serial-killer fetishisation, as Elijah Wood’s FBI profiler interviews Bundy on death row

Leslie Felperin

09, Sep, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile review – Zac Efron in serial killer mode
Efron’s casting in the real-life story of serial killer Ted Bundy is startling, but the film shies away from awkward questions

Peter Bradshaw

02, May, 2019 @5:00 AM

Article image
The Golden Glove review – grisly but pointless true-life serial killer tale
In recreating the crimes of notorious German murderer Fritz Honka, director Fatih Akin conjures up the spirit of great 70s cinema, but only shows how futile his film is

Peter Bradshaw

10, Feb, 2019 @9:17 AM

Article image
Ted K review – queasy inner life of the monkish, unhappy Unabomber
Sharlto Copley excels behind a straggly beard in this portrait of the serial terror-bomber, on a mission against modern technology

Peter Bradshaw

01, Mar, 2021 @8:30 PM

Article image
Finding Steve McQueen review – heist comedy can't locate its charisma
The story of a real-life bank robbery by a lookalike of the Bullitt star gets a pretty shallow and unmemorable treatment

Cath Clarke

11, Nov, 2020 @2:00 PM

Article image
Silk Road review – high-free account of the dark-web drugs emporium
Taking a fanboy stance on Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht doesn’t help Tiller Russell’s underpowered Silicon Valley crime drama

Cath Clarke

16, Mar, 2021 @1:00 PM

Article image
Casting JonBenét review – magnificent provocation to the very notion of truth
Kitty Green’s avant garde documentary allows people auditioning to play JonBenét Ramsey and her family to expound their conspiracy theories about the unsolved murder of the child beauty pageant star

Charlie Phillips

24, Jan, 2017 @11:02 AM