One of my most anticipated movies of the year came out on Netflix today- and when I realized it, I literally stopped everything I was doing. The new movie chronicling the Ted Bundy relationship with his ex-girlfriend had my complete attention. Because: Zac Efron. As a big fan of Efron, I was dying to see how this performance played out. Did it hold up to my very high expectations? Find out in my Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile Review.”
First off: let’s make this clear.
Zac Efron’s naked butt was NOT the highlight of the film. Not even when we saw it a second time.
I mean, it wasn’t a negative by any means- and I don’t even think either shot was gratuitous- but I figure people who know me might think that was my favorite part. And I want to clear up those misconceptions right away. I was not here for Zac Efron’s hotness; I was here for Zac Efron’s skilled acting.
What was my favorite part of this Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile review? The performances by everyone, but especially Efron and Lily Collins, were incredible. More on that in just a minute.
About Extremely Wicked
This movie is a chronicle of the crimes of Ted Bundy from the perspective of Liz, his longtime girlfriend, who refused to believe the truth about him for years. Think about how that had to feel knowing your live-in ex is Ted Bundy.
It’s playing on Netflix and it is rated R for nudity, violence, subject matter and language.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile Parent Movie Review
The easy parent movie review here: don’t let the kids see this one. Teens might be ok, depending on how they handle stories based on real life, but I’d pretty much stick with the 17 and up crowd for this one.
It’s intense, it’s based on a real nightmare of a story, and it’s just not something kids need to see for entertainment.
Why is this Ted Bundy movie called Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile?
The title- a mouthful, for sure- comes from a pronouncement the judge in Bundy’s trial gives as Ted is convicted.
The court finds that both of these killings were indeed heinous, atrocious and cruel. And that they were extremely wicked, shockingly evil, vile and the product of a design to inflict a high degree of pain and utter indifference to human life,” – Dade Circuit Judge Edward D. Cowart
Cowart is played incredibly accurately in the movie by John Malkovich.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile Review
It starts and ends with the Liz-Ted relationship, with a bit of a messy in between going on. The best moments of the film were easily the first 15 minutes and the last 15 minutes.
Once Ted is arrested we’re really just watching a scene-by-scene reenactment of the trial which was detailed in Conversations With a Killer: the Ted Bundy Tapes (also on Netflix and completely worth watching).
I had conflicting feelings about this aspect of the movie. It was absolutely fascinating to compare Efron’s performance with Bundy’s. But I also felt like I’d already seen this part of the story; I wanted more background than I was getting.
While I didn’t feel the story brought me enough new information to the Ted Bundy chronicles, I still enjoyed the movie thanks to the casting.
The Performances in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
I knew Zac Efron had the acting chops for this and I was absolutely not disappointed in his turn as Ted Bundy.
It was eerie and uncomfortable- which playing Bundy should 100% be. Watch the reactions and the facial changes whenever something doesn’t go Ted’s way. Subtle signs of madness wipe away the handsome mask so quickly, you might miss it if you aren’t looking for it.
And no one is fooled into thinking this version of Ted is anything other than the extremely wicked, shockingly evil and vile person that was executed in 1989. Even this bigtime Zac Efron fangirl didn’t feel anything other than revulsion for this guy- Efron is that good in the role.
Also incredible is Lily Collins. The chemistry between them gave a lot of tension to the early parts of the film. It fell apart in the middle where Haley Joel Osment is present as a coworker who tries to help Liz through the trial and conviction. It was never clear exactly what his role with Liz had become- and actually, I’m not even sure the character had a name.
At one point Bundy asks “Who ARE you?” to Osment over the phone… and I gotta kinda agree with that.
Like I said before: the movie got a little messy.
Without spoiling anything, stick around for those last 15 minutes. The performances really pay off here with both Collins and Efron bringing so much depth to their characters in a spine-tingling and intense conclusion.
I also don’t think this movie is an attempt at romanticizing Ted Bundy. I know that’s the fear and the controversy attached to this movie, especially when they cast such an attractive actor in Efron. But let’s remember that Bundy was attractive, and he was charismatic, and he used those gifts to his advantage at every turn. The casting fits the story.
What Doesn’t Work?
Sigh- the story we were promised doesn’t pan out.
It’s not what I was expecting or hoping for and was weirdly unsatisfying in the conclusion. In the end, I wanted more of Ted and Liz together and more of why they were together.
But what does work is the fact that Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile focused on the relationships and court drama vs the crimes themselves. This allows the movie to stand out from other serial killer flicks. We weren’t bogged down in the gore and violence and were allowed to zero in on the people instead. Instead of glorifying his monstrous actions, they were mostly left off the screen.
Overall, I liked the movie. It deserves the mostly positive reviews it’s been given due to the strength of the cast. It delivered what I wanted which was a performance Zac Efron can be incredibly proud of. Not that I had any doubt!
Plus, ahhh, we got to see Efron’s butt. Twice. So… yeah…
Patty Holliday is a movie critic, writer, and podcaster living in the Washington, DC area. Her goal is to bridge the gap between casual fandom and picky critic with parent movie and television reviews.