Culture

‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,’ Zac Efron Bundy Film, Faces Backlash For 'Insensitive' Angle

The trailer for Zac Efron's latest film, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, caught heat for glamorizing the life of Ted Bundy when it released on YouTube on Friday. It arrives on the heels of Netflix’s Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, and they’ve both been crafted by the same director.

Complaints about the film say it seems tone deaf to Bundy’s victims. “Love Zac Efron and he looks like he's doing a good job here but I almost feel like they're trying to make this film something fun and making Ted Bundy seem misunderstood,” wrote YouTube user “Make Time Now.” “He murdered dozens of innocent young women. That shouldn't be glorified or made light of.”

Director Joe Berlinger, however, sees the film as a way to shine a new light on Bundy. He spoke with Newsweek about both The Ted Bundy Tapes and Extremely Wicked in January. He spoke at length about Bundy’s charm, which skyrocketed him to fame as a twisted American celebrity who had fans and supporters throughout his trial, prison sentence and execution.

“You see how incredibly believable and charming he can be,” Berlinger told Newsweek. “I think that's important for people to understand. This is how he won people over. Bundy should have been caught long before he was, but he avoided detection because so many people around him believed in him.”

The film will not so much be about Bundy as it will be about his then-girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer. Kloefer believed Bundy was innocent for much of his prison sentence because of his charm and ability to keep psychopathic tendencies hidden, explained Berlinger.

“Bundy was incredibly adept at compartmentalizing his life,” he said. “He truly did have a life in which he had a positive relationship with this woman, and was like a surrogate father to her daughter. He would come home to a normal family situation.”

Berlinger even saw similarities in Bundy to his own life.

“Liz, the real life Liz, allowed me to look at some photo albums from their life together, and I felt like I was looking into instamatic shots—I'm looking in a photo book that could have been my own family photo book," he said. "Page after page of 'There's the three of them camping. There's the three of them on vacation at a beach. There they are having a birthday party.' It seemed incredibly normal, which is what's so chilling about the whole story.”

As for creating Extremely Wicked, Berlinger said it’s meant to break out of the typical, serial killer style movie. Instead of focusing on murder, it aims to understand those closest to the killer.

“I thought the point of view of the scripted movie was unique and fresh, and in many ways, allowed me to turn the genre of the serial killer movie on its head,” Berlinger said. “Really, the film is about betrayal and how a psychopath can be incredibly believable. She believed in his innocence. So that movie unfolds in a way where you don't see any of the crime until the end when she's putting it all together.”

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