So, today I wanted to review my take on the Ted Bundy movie that was popular on Netflix a while back: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.
Something you may or may not know about me is that I, Christi Lukasiak, am a bit obsessed (okay a lot obsessed) with true crime.
As a child of the eighties (yes, big hair and all), my fascination probably started with those wild network and cable miniseries that were so popular in those days. Let’s face it, in the eighties, there was a huge fascination with true crime and murder. I remember watching Blind Faith starring Joanna Kearns getting murdered by a hitman Robert Urich hired. There were zillions of these shows and my grandma and I used to watch them together, both completely scared and fascinated.
My fascination carried over to adulthood. In my early twenties, I was visiting my in-laws one weekend and I found a copy of The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule. I read it cover-to-cover and was literally hooked from the very first page. I’d always enjoyed crime stories, but this was just…fascinating and terrifying. It didn’t matter that Ted Bundy was dead; if he could do this, ANYONE could commit these types of crimes. I couldn’t put it down. I (very jokingly) refer to Ted Bundy as my original “serial killer boyfriend.”
All joking aside, like many Americans, I’m obsessed with the details of true crime, not simply because it’s interesting to explore the darker angels of our nature or because we can’t look away from a train wreck, but also because I could so clearly relate to the victims. As I was reading the book, I could have easily been any of those women.
In the case of Bundy in particular, all his victims were young, college-aged women. Many with long, straight hair (it was the late 70s, after all). They fell for his charming good looks, his charisma, and his confidence. He had this cult of personality that drew people in and allowed them to brush aside terrible clues and their own gut instincts. Talk about terrifying.
My Take on Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
So, of course, when theTed Bundy film, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, was released, I had to check it out. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie yet, (mild) SPOILER ALERT.
My initial take was that the acting was extremely good. I thought it was very well cast and Zac Efron was weirdly tapped into Bundy’s persona, right down to his facial movements and expressions. It was eerie and pretty wild to watch. There were definitely a few times it made chills run down the back of my neck.
I thought Lily Collins and Kaya Scodelario were really well-cast also. Both actresses did a fantastic job of channeling the naiveite and blind trust that Bundy seemed to invoke. Lily’s performance as Liz Kendall (Kloepfer), Bundy’s girlfriend who was responsible for turning him in, was heart-wrenching. Anyone who’s ever been gaslighted or manipulated before can instantly relate to what she’s going through.
I know the movie is getting a lot of backlash because people feel it romanticizes a serial killer, but I guess I didn’t really see it that way. If anything, I thought it was more disturbing because you could relate to Liz (Collins) so much. I think they made you feel some of the emotions that Liz felt so you can understand why she just couldn’t turn her back on Bundy. After all, we all want to believe that the people we are with are ultimately good people, right?
So, from the Liz perspective, I thought the movie was really well done. However, the storyline felt a little disjointed and off-pace. Some parts moved very quickly while other parts lagged a little or seemed to be missing. If you didn’t know anything about the Bundy story, then Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile wouldn’t really explain it very clearly. So many details of Bundy’s crimes were glossed over or skipped.
Overall, I didn’t love the movie, but I DO have to say that the final scene when Liz meets Ted on death row SHOOK ME TO MY CORE. I thought that it was brilliantly acted. The buildup to the photograph of the murder victim and seeing the photograph was just…insane.
See, here’s the thing, there aren’t many crime scene photons from Bundy’s murders. There were photos from the Chi Omega killings in Florida, but that’s about it. We never saw what Bundy did to his victims because they were never found or when they were found, the were just bones and fragments.
Seeing the photo of the victim really bothered me. Then, to see Bundy’s face and the cold way he writes on the glass as the scene flashes back to the actual murder (which was the first time it was shown in the movie) …it was completely chilling.
When the film cuts back to the glass between Bundy and Liz and the word “HACKSAW” was written, I gasped. Chills went through my whole body. That’s someone’s daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend, and her body was mutilated in the absolutely worst way possible.
Because of that scene, I couldn’t sleep well that night.
If You Want to Learn More About Ted Bundy
There are so many in-depth resources and pieces of information on Bundy out there. Of course, my recommendation would be to start with The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule. Rule worked with Bundy at a crisis hotline center in the 1970s. Yes, that’s right, Ted Bundy fielded calls for people who were contemplating suicide and struggling with other issues.
So, if that’s not disturbing enough, the book outlines how Rule knew Bundy personally and liked him. In fact, she was shocked and had a difficult time coming to terms with the reality of his crimes. As a crime author, she was actually pursuing the case of the missing women he murdered, while she considered Bundy a friend. It really makes you think about just how well you can truly know someone else.
Also Netflix has another Ted Bundy movie, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. If you want to know more about Bundy’s mentality and hear the confessions from the source, this four-part documentary is definitely one to check out. Now, as a documentary, it’s a little slow in some parts, but hearing Bundy and the people who knew him explain the story firsthand is pretty engrossing. The series includes video footage of Bundy in the courtroom as well as personal photos, videos, and interviews. It covers the Chi Omega murders as well as the murder of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach.
Other resources include a Bundy survivor Kathy Kleiner, who shares her story on YouTube. This clip was released after the Ted Bundy movie Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile as an interview with a journalist about Kathy’s experience. She offers a very detailed description of the horrifying night and how she survived Bundy’s attack. She also discusses her emotional (as well as her physical) recovery and why she was driven to get past the ordeal and move on with her life.
There are several other Ted Bundy confessions and interviews on YouTube as well. The full Utah sheriff’s interview of Bundy is very interesting. It’s about an hour and a half, but worth a listen (the video is simply Bundy’s mugshot). In another YouTube video, Bundy confesses to the Murder of Georgann Hawkins to Detective Robert Keppel. This was a murder that took place in Seattle and throughout the video, you see photos of Bundy, his car, and the beautiful Georgann.
Finally, one of the most chilling Bundy videos on YouTube is the Interview with Elizabeth (Kendall) Kloepfer and Robert Keppel. Elizabeth, or “Liz,” was Bundy’s girlfriend (the one played by Lily Collins in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile). Her description of Bundy confessing to her is heartbreaking, especially the many times Bundy lied to her, called her, and even took her out to dinner (!) right after committing a murder (the abductions in Lake Sammamish State Park). He was even late to her daughter’s baptism because he was committing a murder.
Perhaps most horrific of all is when Kloepfer shares that Bundy admitted he once tried to kill her by closing off the damper on the fireplace, which she didn’t even realize. During their discussion, Bundy admitted to her that he would call or contact her right after committing murder to “touch base with reality” (and create an alibi). I can’t even imagine how she could ever trust anyone again.
Of all the serial killers I’ve studied and read about, Ted Bundy has to be the one who’s disturbed me the most. His crimes were truly terrible and chilling. His victims, all young, beautiful women with so much potential and life, break my heart.
I think one of the most interesting aspects of true crime is that it’s often so relatable. It takes place in spots we’ve lived and visited. The criminals remind us of people we know. We’ve all met sociopaths, liars, and abusers. At the same time, it’s really the victims most of us identify with. In this case, the carefree women could have easily been our friends, sisters, mothers, or daughters. To be robbed of their lives and such a young age is so unfair and terrible. My heart goes out to their families.