I remember growing up and having the paper-thin walls between my sister and I’s rooms being flooded with the soundtrack to 2006’s High School Musical. The Disney Channel original movie that took my sister’s generation by storm. I hated the fact that I would get up morning after morning and have “We’re all in this together” stuck in my head. The stars of that movie have gone on to do more movies past High School. Vanessa Hudgens has experienced minor success in films like Beastly, Spring Breakers and more recently in Netflix’s Polar. Minor success aside that little movie gave birth to Zac Efron. Efron was already a heartthrob to entire generation of little girls coming into womanhood. Since graduation though, Efron has established himself as a genuinely talented actor. Starring in films like The Greatest Showman, Baywatch and the Neighbors movies. It’s fitting that a heartthrob turn leading actor is now starring as Ted Bundy in Netflix’s Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil & Vile. Bundy was a notorious serial killer in the 70s & 80s. Though, despite his crimes, he was actually an adored heartthrob for his charm and good looks. Might be why he had such a high body count.
Extremely Wicked tells the story of Bundy’s activity as a serial killer between the mid to late 1970s. Even more than that though, the film focuses on what Bundy was like as a family man, boyfriend, & surrogate father. Efron has crafted a career around being either the funny guy or sexy guy. Yet, in the role of serial killer Ted Bundy – Efron manages to catch the complete essence of the man. His charm, his wit and his arrogance. He completely disappears within the role of Bundy. To prove just how well Efron does within the role – the film’s closing credits are littered with actual stock footage of Bundy during his prison time. The essence of the killer that Efron manages to capture is unsettling and uncanny to say the least. Efron turns in the performance of his career here.
While viewers are no doubt coming to see a Ted Bundy biopic, viewers will be pleasantly surprised by what they find. In some ways, Wicked feels more like a Liz Kendall biopic than Bundy. The film is based on the book that Elizabeth Kendall wrote in the early 80s, The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy. Here, Kendall is played by Lily Collins. Collins, not only has this astonishing chemistry with Efron, but manages to even outshine Efron in some regards. Collins turns in a compelling performance. Showcasing an arc of a woman who refuses to believe what the media has to say about her boyfriend and the psychological toll it takes on her.
While Wicked has two stellar leads in Efron and Collins, some of its biggest issues come with the narrative choices that the film makes. For starters, the opening moments of the film go back and forth between what is later established as the closing moments of the movie and the first meeting between Bundy & Kendall in the early 1970s. At first, viewers are presented with a flashback sequence exploring how the characters met. The two eras are entangled in one another for a several shots and it presents the narrative as a bit messier than needed. On top of that, about the half way point, the narrative subtly changes direction from its original course. It’s a moment you won’t really notice until upon competition of the film.
Overall, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil & Vile is anything but what the title suggests. With Zac Efron playing the famed and charming serial killer that is already enticing enough. Efron turns in one of the best performances of his career. Though, it’s Lily Collins slow descend into alcoholism and denial that makes Vile a truly fascinating character piece of Liz Kendall. Showcasing how the other side dealt with Bundy’s crimes – Wicked will no doubt stand out within the trim crime genre. Though, some of its’ narrative choices are hard to swallow. Still Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil & Vile is entertaining, fascinating and gut wrenching from start to finish.
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