Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
Director: Joe Berlinger
Cast: Zac Efron, Lily Collins, Kaya Scodelario, Jim Parsons, John Malkovich
Running time: 108 minutes
Rating: 3 and a half stars
One of the biggest surprises in this movie is there are no gruesome scenes - barring that given in the court evidence. Based on the memoir "The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy" by Elizabeth Kloepfer, the film focuses on how this wily and truly evil serial killer, rapist, burglar, and necrophile was perceived by his girlfriend Liz and a host of other women.
Bundy was a law student. From the way the movie portrays him, to all accounts and purposes, Ted or Theodore was a charming young man, intelligent and persuasive; well informed and with a singular gift of the gab.
After more than a decade of denials, Bundy confessed to 30 homicides he committed in seven American states between the years 1974 and 1978. He was electrocuted in Florida State prison in 1989. The film takes the audience primarily through the court cases and the way he conned both the victims and the public at large about his real and utterly horrific character.
It's well into the film that the audience is made privy in one of the court sessions to photographs of what Bundy had done to some of the women - of his brutality, callousness and ruthlessness and it's only in the final scene that the worst picture of the horror he was capable of is revealed.
But to start at the beginning. Soon after moving in with Liz and her daughter Molly in Utah, we see him stopped by cops for an abduction. Liz is convinced it’s only because he looks like the actual suspect. Bundy is eventually accused and sentenced to prison for aggravated assault in Utah but goes on to escape from two jails. He's caught in Florida and put on trial for murder. During the trial, he fires his lawyer and represents himself. Throughout the arrests and trials, Liz remains by his side.
Zac Efron portrays the handsome Bundy cleverly and convincingly, with very small deviations that are offered as to hints of his real underlying character.
We see him spending intimate moments with Liz (sensitively portrayed by Lily Collins) and how despite the negative press she believed in him and, her daughter loved him.
A. giveaway moment is when the couple go to an animal welfare centre to adopt a dog. Sure enough the dog likes Liz but when it stares into the eyes of Bundy, the canine barks and growls. Dogs know.
Efron as Bundy does such a good job that through trial session after trial session you are seduced by his wily ways into somehow doubting they got the right culprit.
We see him behind prison bars in various states where he somehow connives even there to lead a quite a charmed life and plots one of his escapes.
When he does by jumping out of a library window he goes on a.murder and mayhem spree in Florida state.
One sees the dilemma, fear and love of Liz and the madness that occasionally gleams in Bundy's eyes.
John Malkovich plays the Florida court judge as both an astute and almost sympathetic man of the law as he recognises the intelligence of the prosecuted man but how he's gone astray...
This film may may not be everybody's cup of tea being largely set within prisons and court rooms. But from a point of view of how a man could con the public and even those close to him for so long, it's a thoroughly fascinating and well-made film.