Our society has a fascination with serial killers, and nothing makes that more evident than the abundance of documentaries, horror movies, and crime thrillers that can be found both on streaming platforms and in theaters alike. But Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile is not just another serial killer movie. It’s so much more powerful than that. And what makes it stand out above all others is not Zac Efron’s performance, which is incredible, but Lily Collins, who is able to ground this film in her raw believability.
The film, which was released on Netflix this past Friday, received quite a bit of criticism, and dealt with its fair share of controversy after the first trailer dropped. People accused the film of romanticizing Ted Bundy and his crimes, turning a horrific set of events into nothing more than a love story. But everyone involved in the making of the film insisted that wasn’t the case, and anyone who’s seen it can attest to that fact.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile may star Zac Efron as Ted Bundy. A lot of the film may revolve around him, but the true heart of the film is undeniably Bundy’s girlfriend, Liz Kendall, played by Lily Collins. We see the majority of the events unfold through her eyes. We feel her confusion, her horror, and her disbelief as she wrestles with a truth so evil, it cannot possibly be real. But it is. And watching her try to come to terms with that is nothing short of heartbreaking. But it was also, surprisingly, conflicting.
Despicable doesn’t even begin to describe what Ted Bundy was. But he was often described as inherently charismatic and charming, and Zac Efron plays to that in a very intense way. We’re meant to watch the film through Liz’s eyes, and we truly feel her struggle as if it’s our own. Efron is astoundingly convincing in his pleasant, almost boy-next-door like demeanor. In fact, it’s exactly that which made Bundy so terrifying, and Efron’s delivery so entrancing. He denies his crimes with total conviction, never wavering from the story that he is innocent. And you want to believe him. Desperately. As everyone did at the time. Because if someone who appeared to be nothing more than just a normal guy on the street, a good citizen, a man who loved (or at least, appeared to love) his girlfriend and her daughter, could actually be capable of these shockingly evil things, the entire world gets flipped upside down.
“ People don’t realize that murderers do not come out in the dark with long teeth and saliva dripping off their chin. People don’t realize that there are killers among them. People they liked, loved, lived with, work with and admired could the next day turn out to be the most demonic people imaginable.”-Ted Bundy, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile
We knew, as everyone did, that Ted Bundy was guilty. But still, when watching this film, we found ourselves hoping for any other alternative. You could find yourself actually want to root for him. It’s this that makes the film so haunting.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile is not gruesome. We see very little gore, and only hear of some of the unspeakable acts that he commits. What we do see is the consequences of those acts. We see a man, who is undeniably bad, convince many that he’s good. If you think this is a glorified love story, you’re missing the point of the film entirely. After all, this is not based on the story of Ted Bundy, but on the book written by Kendall about living with the serial killer. This movie is a poignant reminder of how easy it is for some people to manipulate others. Of how anyone, even those we’re most close to, can be capable of the most horrific things.
Efron and Collins have an effortless chemistry, making their performances all the more believable. With stunning portrayals by John Malkovich, Jim Parsons, and Angela Sarafyan, this film manages to capture something that most movies about serial killers are incapable of. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile has heart. We get glimpses of it in many of the characters, but Collins is unequivocally the essence and the root of what makes this film stand out. It is her conflict, so masterfully portrayed, that truly sets this film apart. Together, Efron and Collins make an unstoppable, memorable, and haunting duo. These are performances that you do not want to miss.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile Is Streaming Now On Netflix.