Entertainment Movie Reviews 11 May 2019 A serial killer&rsqu ...

A serial killer’s biopic gets it right

Published May 11, 2019, 3:30 am IST
Updated May 11, 2019, 3:34 am IST
This engaging film that does not get gory despite the subject’s vile life.
A still from the film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil & Vile
 A still from the film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil & Vile

Films about serial killers  and other sociopaths  are the last things we need  in these troubled times. Specially after watching Lara Von Tiers’ atrociously barbaric serialkiller porn-violence in  The House  That  Jack Built not to mention Raj Kumar Hirani’s Sanju, I has sworn off films that glorify anti-social ‘heroes.’

In a very strange, stirring and refreshing departure from convention  director Joe Berlinger’s  saga of real-life American serial killer Ted Bundy gets  it right. Bundy played with  disquieting charm  by Zac Efron reportedly killed  over  30 woman (that’s just the official figure, unofficially there were many more) during the  1960s and  70s until he was finally  sentenced to death  in Florida by a judge (played with unostentatious brilliance by  John Malkovich) who describes Bundy  in the words that form the Shantaram-esque  title of this engaging  and  disturbing film.


But here’s what:  the  film on Ted Bundy’s vile life doesn’t get gruesome on us. Until the final blow in the closing moments when, for the  first  time we see the charming  Bundy doing not-so-charming things  to a woman,  everything else  is  done  off screen. We just hear about Bundy being the prime suspect  in  countless killings across America.  On screen, we see this  enormously  likeable ladies’ man, making  his prison escape look cute rather than mutinous, getting feminine attention  wherever he goes and whenever he likes. Terms and conditions don’t apply.

There  is  the  love of Bundy’s life Liz, played with a tragic inevitability  by the  lovely Lily Collins (she is  the daughter of musician Phil Collins’). At the end, when Bundy has nowhere  to run anymore, Liz  rightly wonders why she, and her daughter, were spared and in fact genuinely loved by the  killer. Could it be because  Liz was the fulcrum of  normalcy, that ‘other’ life which Bundy seems  to lead, while he’s actually living another dark and  sinister life?

Questions such as these are stared in their face with no venom but, plenty of vitality by the stark yet gentle writing in this dramatic yet elegiac  film about a charming man whose  dormant nastiness  is  as elusive to apprehend as it is to comprehend.

Many  moments in the elegantly edited, smartly narrated story had me enthralled. The  blend of regret and menace in this  film is unique. Then there is Zac Efron. He is  so apt, so bang-on as the endearing psychopath, that  I was  left wondering  if he was really the killer, even after we are  given visual evidence of his  brutal personality at the end.

When he is sentenced to death, Efron’s chilling statement on the  distance between the  man who killed all those women and  the  one who stands in the court, endorses  Efron’s  exceptional  performance. It also offers us a vivid glimpse  into the  culture  of subliminal sadism where violence is seen as  a part of another life nothing to do with the  civil life that an individual leads.

Indeed this film will make you wonder why some people enjoy  hurting others when there  is so much to love everywhere.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil & Vile (Netflix)
Starring Zac Efron, Lily Collins
Directed  by Joe Berlinger
Rating: ****(4 stars)