Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
|Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile|
Official release poster
|Directed by||Joe Berlinger|
|Screenplay by||Michael Werwie|
|Based on||The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy|
by Elizabeth Kendall
|Music by||Marco Beltrami|
|Edited by||Josh Schaeffer|
|Box office||$2 million|
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is a 2019 American biographical crime thriller film, told from the point of view of serial killer Ted Bundy's former girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall. Directed by Joe Berlinger with a screenplay from Michael Werwie, the film is based on Kendall's memoir The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy. The film stars Zac Efron as Bundy, Lily Collins as Kendall, Kaya Scodelario as Bundy's wife, Carole Ann Boone, and John Malkovich as Edward Cowart, the presiding judge at Bundy's trial. The title of the film is a reference to Cowart's remarks on Bundy's murders while sentencing him to death.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2019, and was released on May 3, 2019, by Netflix. The film received mixed reviews from critics, though Efron's performance was praised.
By 1974, news reports announce the murders of multiple young women, including two who disappeared in broad daylight at Lake Sammamish. A man resembling Ted was seen by several people asking women to help him load a sailboat onto a Volkswagen Bug. A composite sketch of the attacker is released and, following hundreds of phone calls, Ted is arrested in 1975.
Carol DaRonch picks Ted out of a police lineup, claiming he had kidnapped her and threatened to kill her before she managed to escape. Ted is released on bail, returning home to Liz who is upset after reading an article about him in the newspaper. Ted explains that Carol was shown his picture before the lineup took place, which is why he looked familiar to her, and believes he is being set up. After a four-day bench trial, Ted is found guilty of aggravated kidnapping and is sentenced to serve a minimum of one to a maximum of 15 years in the Utah State Prison.
A few weeks later, Colorado authorities charge Ted with the murder of Caryn Campbell and he is transferred to Aspen, Colorado in 1977. Liz refuses to believe Ted is guilty but the events start to take a toll on her, and she begins drinking alcohol regularly. While at Pitkin County Courthouse, Ted elects to serve as his own attorney and, as such, is excused from wearing handcuffs or leg shackles. During a recess, Ted escapes from the courthouse by jumping out of a second story window and running to the mountains but is recaptured after six days.
Liz visits Ted and ends their relationship. Ted later escapes again after sawing a square in his cell's ceiling. Two women at a sorority house are murdered in Florida, followed by vicious attacks on two more. After Ted is arrested, he tries to contact Liz but she hangs up on him. He starts to receive a following of women who are fascinated by him, some even claiming they love him. Ted is visited by an old friend, Carole Ann Boone, who believes he is innocent and moves to Florida to be closer to him.
A pre-trial plea bargain is negotiated in which Bundy would plead guilty to killing the two sorority girls, Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman, and twelve-year-old Kimberly Leach, in exchange for a 75-year prison sentence instead of the death penalty. Ted refuses the bargain. Ted and Carole Ann grow closer as she visits him regularly; the two begin a relationship but Ted continues to reach out to Liz, who is following his trials via television. She carries the guilt of being the person who gave Ted's name to the Seattle authorities in 1975. Ted later proposes to Carole Ann and they marry.
Incriminating physical evidence is provided in court, including a match of a plaster cast of Ted's teeth to the impressions of bite wounds on Levy's buttocks. In under seven hours, the jury convicts Ted of the murders of Levy and Bowman, three counts of attempted first-degree murder, and two counts of burglary. Trial judge Edward Cowart imposes death sentences for the murder convictions to be carried out with an execution by electrocution.
Ten years later, Liz receives a letter from Ted and visits him, taking a photograph given to her by a detective. Liz demands the truth, but Ted continues to deny having anything to do with the murders. She then shows Ted the photograph — a crime scene image of one of his decapitated victims — and Ted admits that he sawed her head off. Liz leaves the prison in shock but is met outside by her teenage daughter and her husband, and she proclaims that she is okay.
As the film ends, archival footage and on-screen text say that Ted was executed in January 1989, aged 42 years old. Ted had confessed to over 30 murders days before and his ashes were scattered in the Cascade Mountains where he had deposited the remains of numerous victims.
- Zac Efron as Ted Bundy, a former law student accused of several violent crimes against women.
- Lily Collins as Liz Kendall, a college student and single mother who enters a relationship with Ted and professes his innocence through his trials.
- Kaya Scodelario as Carole Ann Boone, an old friend of Ted's who moves closer to him for support. They later marry in court.
- Jeffrey Donovan as John O'Connell, Ted's attorney in Utah who defends his kidnapping case.
- Angela Sarafyan as Joanna, Liz's close friend who believes Ted is guilty.
- Dylan Baker as David Yocom, the prosecuting attorney in Utah.
- Brian Geraghty as Dan Dowd, Ted's public defender in Florida when he is re-captured after escaping in Colorado.
- Terry Kinney as Mike Fisher, a homicide detective who ties Ted to a murder in Colorado.
- Haley Joel Osment as Jerry Thompson, Liz's co-worker at the University Medical Division who she begins dating after Ted.
- James Hetfield as Bob Hayward, a police officer in Utah who first arrests Bundy.
- Grace Victoria Cox as Carol DaRonch, a woman Ted kidnapped in Utah leading to his first conviction.
- Jim Parsons as Larry Simpson, the prosecuting attorney in Florida.
- John Malkovich as Edward Cowart, the presiding judge at Ted's final murder trial.
- Justin McCombs as Jim Dumas, Ted's attorney in Colorado who defends his first murder case.
- Forba Shepherd as Louise Bundy, Ted's mother.
Molly Kendall, Liz's daughter, is portrayed at different ages by Macie Carmosino, Ava Inman, Morgan Pyle, and Grace Balbo. Director Joe Berlinger and cinematographer Brandon Trost make cameo appearances as the presenter and cameraman who interview Ted in Colorado.
The project was unveiled at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, with Zac Efron set to star as the serial killer Ted Bundy, and documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger signed to direct. In October 2017, Lily Collins was cast as Bundy's girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall.
In January 2018, John Malkovich was cast to play Edward Cowart, the judge presiding over Bundy's case. Principal production began on January 18, 2018 in Covington, Kentucky. Angela Sarafyan, Jeffrey Donovan, Grace Victoria Cox, Kaya Scodelario, Jim Parsons, Haley Joel Osment, Dylan Baker and Terry Kinney joined the film throughout the rest of January, with Metallica guitarist and lead singer James Hetfield being added in February.
The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2019. Shortly after, Netflix acquired the domestic distribution rights to the film for $9 million. It was digitally released on the platform on May 3, 2019, along with a limited theatrical release. It will have a possible return to theaters in the fall to ensure award eligibility and visibility.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 56% based on 151 reviews, and an average rating of 5.75/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile often transcends its narrative limitations through sheer force of Zac Efron's compulsively watchable performance." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 52 out of 100, based on 31 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews."
Owen Gleiberman of Variety praised Efron's performance for its accuracy in portraying Bundy, and wrote: "Extremely Wicked doesn't rub our noses in the horror of Ted Bundy. It shows us just enough, keeping the horror where it belongs, in the recesses of our imagination, where it remains what it should be: dark as midnight, and altogether too much to fathom." The Guardian's Benjamin Lee gave the film three out of five stars, also praising Efron but calling the film itself a "pedestrian and graceless drama." He criticized Collins' performance, saying she was reduced to a stock character. Writing for Vulture, Emily Yoshida had a similar perspective, praising Efron but disliking the rest the film, and saying, "The narrative feature from veteran documentarian Joe Berlinger seems as though it's setting out to be the story of serial killer Ted Bundy told through the eyes of his girlfriend...But Berlinger's film gets sucked into the gravity of sensational events that are already a matter of public record, and spends so much time meticulously recreating them that the perspective is diluted."
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