The Internet Is VERY Divided Over That New Zac Efron Ted Bundy Movie — Here's Why
More than 30 years have passed since Ted Bundy's sickening murder spree, which left more than 30 (but potentially as many as 100) women dead. But now, thanks to a chilling Netflix docuseries and a biopic starring Zac Efron, the long-dead deranged psychopath has been thrust back into the spotlight. The whole ordeal has created a media circus not unlike the one that went down during his trial. Thanks in large part to Efron's involvement in the film — it's called Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile — it's not hard to go on a place like Twitter and find tweets glorifying, romanticizing, and outright objectifying the star and his character.
It doesn't help that the trailer for Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile seems to paint the events as some kind of edgy dark comedy. We've got an upbeat rock song, Efron's winks to camera, a glimpse at his muscular physique, and so much more. It seems to be taking a page from I, Tonya, which also depicted a dark and troubling story through a more divisive and markedly lighthearted lens. However, in this case, in a story that involves such repugnant and unthinkable crimes, it really rubs the wrong way.
Here's what I presume the film, and by that extension the trailer, is trying to do. During Bundy's trial, he was the perfect picture of a handsome, charming man who couldn't possibly have done the horrifying things he'd been accused of. Women would give courthouse interviews talking about his good looks and saying they believed he was innocent. The media fed into this frenzy, often depicting him in the same way. Even the docuseries on Netflix, which is much more grounded, is captivating and disturbing at the same time. By casting a heartthrob like Efron and playing up this aspect of Bundy's story, the biopic isn't necessarily attempting to glorify or romanticize the villainous man. Instead, it's attempting to convey how someone so rotten and disturbed was able to dupe a nation into thinking he wasn't the mass murderer and rapist he really was.
But here's where I think the message gets lost: the trailer. The tone is too light, we hardly see any of Bundy's reprehensible act, and it leans way too far into the "charming" narrative Bundy himself was trying to spin. A full-length movie has time to play with these nuances, but a trailer does not. Now, we're left with two minutes of footage that looks more like a gleeful romp through a horrifying ordeal that ruined hundreds of lives.
At this point, it should be clear that this whole ordeal is a rather delicate conversation with many levels that is hard to have on a short-form platform like Twitter. People came down hard on the film after the trailer dropped, and I can see why. (And I agree with them! It's not a good look! Do better, trailer makers!) Still, others who have seen the movie at Sundance or even perhaps looked into Bundy's history see the larger point: this is all part of the game. At the end of the day, though, is it worth it to make this point about Bundy and the media's adoration of him? Especially since so many of the victims' families are still around to see this irreverent take on something that may very well still make them shudder and hurt to this very day? That's something you'll have to decide for yourself.