Controversy surrounds new film about serial killer, Ted Bundy, starring Zac Efron.

The photo above shows the shocking similarities of Ted Bundy (left) and Zac Efron (right).

The photo above shows the shocking similarities of Ted Bundy (left) and Zac Efron (right).

Evan Peffer, Staff Writer

With the recent release of Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapeson Netflix, and the premiere of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile at the Sundance Film Festival at the end of January, it seems that no matter where you look, there is someone talking about the infamous killer. The biggest topic of conversation is about whether or not Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is a true-to-life biopic or an over-sexualized romanticizing of a man who has admitted to killing 30 people.

Seeing as how movies from Sundance usually aren’t released to the general public until several months after the festival, most of the country has been required to form their judgements off the trailer alone – so that’s what we’ll be working with as well. For background, Extremely Wicked is based on a 1981 book called The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy by Elizabeth Kendall – the pen name of Elizabeth Kloepfer. Kloepfer was Ted Bundy’s lover and fiancé for over six years, and her book is a memoir of her time with him.

From what I’ve seen circling the internet, there seems to always be the same few arguments popping up from those with negative reactions to the trailer. The biggest, most often cited complaint against this movie is that it over-sexualizes Bundy. I think the popular theory is that this movie was made with the same mindset as the people behind Tumblr blogs who write about being in love with Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the Columbine shooters. When critics of Extremely Wicked discussed the trailer, they often cited it being edited in such a way that it resembles a romantic-action-comedy with upbeat music and clips of Zac Efron, who plays Bundy, acting like your typical witty, nice-guy hero.

This is exactly the point, though. The movie is meant to show Bundy as a nice, attractive, everyday guy, because to most people, he was. By all accounts, Bundy only got away with what he did because of his looks and charm. He was the man you could take home to your parents: charming, career oriented, and ambitious. He didn’t fit the police’s profile for what a killer should look like. This whole scheme is the theme of the new movie, just as it was in Kloepfer’s book. She’s said that the purpose was to ask the question “Would you know if you were in bed with a monster?”

I’ve also seen it going around that people don’t quite understand all of the talk about Bundy’s attractiveness- they don’t see him as looking good at all. Because of this, they feel that Zac Efron being cast to play the role is glamorizing the killer and playing off of Efron’s existing fanbase. I disagree with this. I personally don’t see him as anything special, and while Bundy may not fit the modern standard of male beauty compared to the standards of the 70’s, he lived up to the expectations.

As someone who is fascinated by true crime and the psychology surrounding serial killers, I feel like Extremely Wicked is something that is needed. I believe that in the world of true crime media, there has been enough speculation done by special investigators and police. No matter how much research is done into the matter, there is nothing that will give quite the same look into the situation as a recalling from someone who lived through the situation. Elizabeth Kloepfer was one of the closest people to Bundy for over six years, and she has a unique perspective not only on the events of the time, but also into Bundy as a person. If she believed him to be warm and kind, at least partially, then that deserves to be publicized as much as his horrific half does. It serves as a needed warning to women today that no matter how someone may seem on the surface, you really do never know if you’re sleeping with a monster.

As a medium, movies are, by design, glamorizing. It’s hard to get around that, but as long as you go into it with the intention if portraying an accurate depiction of the events, everything should work out. Admittedly, the trailer could have been edited more faithfully to the motif of the movie, but as an adaptation, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile looks promising and I personally am excited to see it.