August 18, 2019

Zac Efron Kills as Ted Bundy

“In terms of tantalising Sundance prospects, the idea of watching Zac Efron play Ted Bundy has charmed its way to the top, morbid curiosity attaching itself to what screams of flashy stunt casting. The ex-Disney heartthrob graduated from the High School Musical franchise to a spotty adult career, showing comic skills in two sharp Neighbors films but struggling to make dross like We Are Your Friends, Baywatch or Dirty Grandpa feel remotely necessary.

His decision to play one of America’s most notorious and sadistic serial killers in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (named after a courtroom description of Bundy) is a carefully considered turning point, a gruesome gambit aimed at showing hidden depths underneath his Ken doll exterior and a textbook move for an actor whose work has been so closely associated with his appearance. But unlike other depth-plumbing heartthrobs like Jared Leto in Chapter 27 or Charlize Theron in Monster, Efron doesn’t require extreme weight gain or prosthetic teeth to transform, just an as-yet-unseen ability to lean into his dark side.

The film starts by showing us events from Bundy’s fiance Liz’s perspective as a single mother seduced by a charismatic stranger called Ted. The pair’s honeymoon phase is soon brought to an end when Ted is accused of aggravated assault and Liz is forced to decide between a growing stack of evidence and her lover’s dogged insistence that he’s being framed. The decision to keep the viewer similarly in the dark as to Bundy’s involvement in the crimes makes it a mostly bloodless affair and directed by the documentarian Joe Berlinger, it’s also a rather drab one too, betraying a devilish title hinting at wilder, unseen depths.”

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