It’s only May and we may already be looking at the award for “worst movie title of the year” in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, director Joe Berlinger’s second run at the story behind the Ted Bundy murders after his four-part Netflix documentary series The Ted Bundy Tapes. Yet, it seems as though Berlinger may have shot himself in the foot as his new “fictionalised” movie adaptation of the Bundy killings can’t quite live up to its predecessor.
Where the Bundy Tapes documented both the killings themselves and the court drama that ensued after, Extremely Wicked is much more of a straightforward courtroom drama that’s main focus largely centres on the relationship between Efron’s Bundy and Lily Collin’s ‘Liz and the understandable tension that forms between the two as Bundy’s past begins to unravel. And in that department Extremely Wicked certainly delivers with Effron arguably giving one of the best performances of his (admittedly limited) career, matched only by Collin’s own sublime and emotional performance. It’s a shame then that the two are let down by a very weak script and an equally weak supporting cast.
Centring on the courtroom dramas almost exclusively it’s hard to really comprehend how psychotic Bundy really was. In comparison to a movie like Zodiac which shows both the serial killings and the subsequent reprocutions, Extremly Wicked lacks excitement and tension. Bundy doesn’t really come across as particularly menacing despite Effron’s best efforts and instead plays more like a vaguely self-centred extrovert more than a manipulative but charming lunatic. It’s entertaining at first but hard to not feel things could’ve used pacing up a little. Potentially exciting developments such as Bundy’s courtroom escape are largely glossed over in favour of more time spent in the courtroom and the lack of tension is noticeable throughout.
It’s also a shame that the supporting cast aren’t as strong as you’d hope. John Malkovich is largely wasted as Judge Edward Cowart turning in a pretty subdued and uninspired performance. But Kaya Scodelario is perhaps the biggest disappointment of the bunch, failing to ignite the same chemistry than Effron and Collins share as Bundy’s second ‘romantic-interest’ Carole Ann Boone. It’s a real shame as the potential was there for some much needed excitement in the form of the relatively stacked supporting cast who mostly feel underwritten and underperformed.
But if your looking for a straightforward retelling of the Bundy murders aftermath this may fit the bill. It doesn’t tread any new ground that wasn’t already established in the docu-series but Effron and Collins turn in good enough performances that the movie is perfectly serviceable. It’s just when compared to similar movies of a much higher quality and calibre like Zodiac that the problems begin to show.