The first full trailer for Ted Bundy biopic Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile dropped over the weekend.
Bundy, played here by Zac Efron, murdered at least 30 women and girls, sexually assaulted most of them before and/or after (usually) bludgeoning or strangling them to death, and kept the heads of at least 12 of them in his home as trophies.
But with the generic swaggering retro rock soundtrack, lingering sexy scenes, shots of Efron sprinting comically or brooding handsomely, and BIG SMASHY TAGLINE SCREENS, the trailer comes off more Catch Me If You Can than Monster.
We get it: fun and sexy sells more tickets than dark and depressing. And trailers are a pretty lost art these days – just watching one risks spoiling the entire movie – so there’s absolutely no reason to assume the film has the same jaunty tone.
So I don’t have a problem with the Zac Efron attractiveness as Ted Bundy, since he was known for his looks & charm. But what’s with the rock-themed upbeat trailer music & cut? I pictured it as a dark biography, not a LOLz oh this guy movie. #ExtremelyWickedShockinglyEvilAndVile
— Chereen Zaki (@Chereenzaki) January 26, 2019
Saw the trailer for #ExtremelyWickedShockinglyEvilAndVile and the vibe was super off-putting. Ted Bundy was a fucking MONSTER and I’m not sure why they are marketing it like an action/comedy blockbuster. I hope the actual movie isn’t this tone deaf. So disappointed. Gross.
— WHAT A FROG (@ijustDOthings) January 26, 2019
What’s more, the point of the movie is supposed to be that Bundy’s handsomeness and charm were exactly what allowed him to lure women into situations where they were alone, to insist on his innocence when his girlfriend Liz Koepfler reported him to the police as a suspect (and even after he was convicted), and to maintain adoring fans and correspondents who mourned him after his execution.
The entire design of Efron’s casting is to use the fact that he is extremely handsome against you, the audience. You’re supposed shift uncomfortably as you admire his chiseled features, finding yourself charmed or convinced as he represents himself in America’s first nationally televised criminal trial – you’re supposed to feel confused, conflicted, and repulsed by your feelings about him, like Koepfler must have, even though you know he did it.
Not gonna watch. Lived during that time. Knew some of the people.
— William H (@billythom13) January 25, 2019
Reviews from Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered, say that Efron nails the charm bit, as well as the necessary creepiness. Variety calls his performance “startlingly good: controlled, magnetic, audacious, committed, and eerily right… We see the desperate soul hidden in the psycho hidden in the charlatan hidden in the handsome straight-arrow.”
And while there are flashes of body-dragging in the trailer, there’s reportedly no actual onscreen depiction of any of the murders, in order to keep the audience perspective closer to Koepfler’s anguished uncertainty – which another review says “has the absurd effect of elevating Efron’s winsome Bundy into a protagonist you root for getting away with it all”.
EXTREMELY WICKED: A movie that never commits to a POV, and seems to fall for Ted as much as the cameras did during the trial. Watch the doc instead.
— Brian Tallerico (@Brian_Tallerico) January 27, 2019
We need to be having conversations about the fact that not all violent men are shark-eyed and scary-looking; that they can be charming, handsome, and kind to some people, and then commit unspeakably horrific violence before coming home to kiss their loved ones goodnight.
to those who don’t get it, ted bundy was glorified and romanticised WHEN HE WAS STILL ALIVE AND ON TRIAL! The whole shock and intrigue that comes from Ted is that he didn’t look like a killer and he fooled a lot of people #ExtremelyWickedShockinglyEvilAndVile
— ✨ (@beth_emilyy_) January 26, 2019
But so much true crime now, in the process of trying to turn criminals into characters, paints portraits of monsters that are a little too compelling.
And as we’ve learned from the weird fandom that’s grown around Penn Badgley’s handsome, violent obsessive in Netflix’s hit show You, you can show the whole story and people will still tweet about how hot the murderer is.
I've seen a lot of talk about Ted Bundy’s alleged hotness and would like to gently remind everyone that there are literally THOUSANDS of hot men on the service — almost all of whom are not convicted serial murderers
— Netflix US (@netflix) January 28, 2019
So it feels like there’s almost no way to win when you’re telling the story of someone who was extremely sexy and shockingly evil and vile.
But unlike You, Extremely Wicked isn’t fiction – Ted Bundy’s victims were very real people. And in a way, focusing on his charisma instead of his crimes feels as cheap as any blood-soaked re-enactments.
Remember while everyone is excited for entertainment this 12 year old suffered a horrible death this baby girl was someone’s daughter. pic.twitter.com/m52klXuN5C
— 🧞♂️sǝɹɹoʇ ʎןןod🧞♀️ (@Pollytorres18) January 26, 2019