The official teaser trailer for Joe Berlinger’s movie, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, was to mixed reactions. The movie stars Zac Efron as notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. While many in the Murderino community can’t wait to see the film, others have complained about the trailer; “Bundy, in the hands of Efron and Berlinger, seems vaguely likable,” which, according to Jezebel, is a problem.
The error in panning a film for making a serial killer seem charming and handsome is that Bundy was charming and handsome. In fact, most psychopaths are charming. In The Stranger Beside Me, Ann Rule writes about coming to grips with the idea that Bundy, her dear friend, had done unbelievably horrible things. And she was a police officer turned crime reporter! If anyone were going to recognize a psychopath straight off it would be her.
It’s important to teach your kids that people can be complete monsters, yet seem attractive and likable. We’ve all had it drilled into us from childhood never to get in a stranger’s car. And if some blatantly creepy dude tried to get 20-year-old me (who matched Bundy’s victim profile, btw) in his car, of course I wouldn’t do it. Now imagine Zac Efron asks 20-year-old me if I want a ride. Shotgun, bitches! That’s why this casting is so perfect- it shows one of the tools Bundy used to victimize so many young women.
I understand the concern about glorifying serial killers. Frankly I couldn’t get through the Netflix docuseries, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes for that reason. However, while the docuseries didn’t seem particularly interested in the women Bundy victimized, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is told from Bundy’s long time girlfriend’s point of view. I think it’s worthwhile to explore how a serial killer maintained a romantic relationship with a woman for years before she learned who he really was.
Check out the trailer and decide for yourself. I recommend taking older teens to see this movie. Especially those getting ready to leave the nest. Talk to them about why they think Bundy was able to murder so many people while evading capture for so long. Talk about manipulation, and why first impressions are not always accurate. Tell them it’s OK to appear rude if it keeps you safe (Bundy often posed as injured and asked potential victims for help). Before you send your kids off into the world, arm them with the knowledge that, sometimes, there’s a monster behind the pretty face offering you a ride.