Sundance 2019: “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” Review
Easily the film with the biggest hype and anticipation at Sundance for many festival goers was Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile starring Zac Efron as Ted Bundy. There is a fascination we have with murderers, but none more so than Ted Bundy. In the end, Ted confessed to killing over 30 women in his killing spree, all while playing house with his girlfriend, Liz (Lily Collins) and her daughter, Molly. While Ted Bundy captured the attention of a nation, Liz continued to suffer at the hands of a man who had a hold on her. What makes Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile different than the other media out there about Ted Bundy is that this film is told from the perspective of the victim and how she saw her boyfriend, a man capable of brutally murdering women.
The film begins going back and forth between Liz and Ted’s first night they met and her visiting him in prison. This demonstrates the back and forth nature of Liz’s perception of Ted. Zac Efron is the perfect choice for playing Ted Bundy. He was haunting and chillingly charismatic and likable in the film. He plays that card well, but what we are blown away with by him is not his ability to be charming, but his ability to bottle that rage and evil and keep it just below the surface. He gives us just enough of a glance of the horror that lives in that mind that genuinely makes his character terrifying. This role, as I said in my pre-Sundance article, has the chance to solidify Zac as more of a serious actor, pushing him more towards serious drama rather than silly comedies that he has done in the past.
Lily Collins gives a tour-de-force performance as Liz. It is emotionally raw and powerful as she struggles to get out of the emotional grip that Ted has on her. She makes the audience feel her pain as she struggles with the idea of the man she knows and the things that he is accused of doing. The rest of the supporting cast is equally phenomenal with stellar performances from Jim Parsons, Haley Joel Osment, John Malkovich, and others.
Many people are concerned with the light tone of the trailer that was released earlier this week. While I haven’t watched the trailer, I can say that the film has much more levity than I first anticipated. The reason for this is that it focuses more on what Ted appeared to be to others, rather than focus on the gruesome details of his crimes. The film is a lot lighter than you’d expect until the last twenty minutes or so. At that point, we begin to see the rage sneak out and the seriousness in Ted and Liz shift. From the point where Liz stops answering Ted’s calls during his trial, we begin to see a shift. The closing arguments and the back and forth between Ted and the district attorney (Jim Parsons) is phenomenal and builds the suspense, but it doesn’t stop there. Ted’s statement at the end of the trial once he is sentenced to the death penalty is the best we’ve ever seen Zac Efron. His emotions are on full display, and the camera slowly zooms in on his eyes as you see the conviction, the anger, and the tears in his eyes. It is incredibly powerful and moving, and still reminds you how convincing Ted Bundy was.
While many people know the ending of Ted Bundy’s life, I don’t want to ruin how it is displayed, and some of the reveals at the end of the film. Suffice it to say that it only continues on the path of intensity and raw emotion set out in the last few minutes of the film. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is a mesmerizing tale of a charismatic man and the enchanting nature of his charm despite the monster that lived inside of him. Efron gives a performance that could change the rest of his career and leaves the audience stunned.