Chronicling the life of a serial killer is never easy, especially when it strays from the typical documentary format. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile does just that by making a bold choice in having Zac Efron, who starred in High School Musical, play a wicked serial killer. The narrative is presented in a way that conforms much more to a drama than a strictly informative piece. However, this selection paid off in many ways and displays another side of the story of one of the most horrible men to ever live.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, starring Zac Efron, is about the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. Born in Burlington, Vermont in 1946 and executed in Florida’s electric chair in 1989, Bundy was convicted of over 30 murders of women and girls, though many believe that he killed many more.
The film revolves around the “human” side of Bundy; the charming side that sweet-talked and befriended others, as opposed to the dark side who savagely murdered those same people. He is shown to be a good-looking ladies’ man who is almost normal. It even goes so far as to sexualize him and include his love life, which is a rather unsettling choice that plays into the controversy of the film.
Some criticize the choice to portray Bundy in this way, saying that we should not humanize the monster and that having Zac Efron play him glamorizes serial killers. This view is valid to an extent, but it misses the point of the movie. These types of stories hold immense intrigue for people, hence why true crime shows are so popular. The purpose of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is to show another side of Bundy that gives the audience a deeper insight into the life of a killer.
The choice to include Zac Efron accomplishes this goal well by showing the essence of how Bundy did what he did. He lured women and girls into his clutches through his smooth-talking and good looks. Who better to do that than Zac Efron? This does not glamorize killers but shows the human side that the man presented to the world, which is essential in accurately telling his story. This side is not who he was, but a mechanism to accomplish his sick goals. Bundy is most certainly a monster, and the film does not dispute that.
In recent years there has been an increase in the number of movies and TV shows based on or about serial killers, from My Friend Dahmer to Mindhunter, and other countless Netflix shows. In this sense, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is nothing new, but it begs the question as to why society has such a fascination with despicable murderers like Ted Bundy.
Why are we so interested in the workings of a killer? There is no one answer to this, but I think it reveals that many of us are becoming more interested in reality as opposed to fiction, and suggests that there is a darker side to our benign curiosity of the unknown.