Theodore met the love of his life Liz in 1969 in a bar in Seattle. Meredith and Derek also met in a bar in Seattle. The latter couple is from the fictional world of Grey’s Anatomy and the love of Mer/Der ends splendidly compared to what would become of the former real-life couple. First, trigger warning for any who have a difficult time with dark, violent subject matter. The term ‘serial killer’ may as well be synonymous with the phrase ‘trigger warning.’ Second, if none of that is a bother go ahead and read the complete review for the film with the ungainly title. It’s said that Liz ended things with him because he lacked direction in life, a familiar end to a familiar story for many couples. Whether it was the anguish of the breakup or the suffering of alleged child abuse, both of which many people have endured, there is no definitive, singular or remotely justifiable reason as to why Ted Bundy became a serial killer. That is, however, the direction he chose to take. He slaughtered women across America between 1974-1978 in seven states total including Seattle, Utah, and Colorado. Ted escaped from prison (not once but twice) in CO in 1978 and he fled to Florida where he did his most vicious killings, slaying women in a sorority house and then claiming another female victim down the street. His trial was in 1979, his conviction in 1980, and finally, his execution in 1989.
I watched the trailer for the upcoming film and I felt uncomfortable. Disturbed. I was chilled, not because of the numerous, true, sadistic murders of at least thirty young women resembling myself. The plot does make me uneasy, what made me queasy was as the fact that I liked the villain. I saw the murderer not as a sadist but as a gentleman, a duplicitous one but a gentleman nonetheless. How could they do that? Make a movie about a serial killer and portray him as likable? Wait, this sounds familiar.Meet Joe, a straight, white, clean-cut, educated gentleman that no one would suspect.
In the true story of Bundy; Extremely wicked, shockingly evil, and vile (Berlinger, 2019) they portray him as well mannered because it’s the truth. John Wayne Gacey was another serial killer who had the town believing he was no more than an upstanding citizen. Ted was charismatic and charming and not hard on the eyes. That was his bait for luring dozens of women to their deaths, or was it? Could his superficial charm and conventional good looks have been nothing more than deflections put forth by the media? Did he really beckon those unwitting ladies across the room with a wink or did he sneak up behind them in the dark and whack them over the head? Whether it was a method of seduction or straight-forward savagery, he was a successful killer because he didn’t come across as a threat let alone depravity in the flesh. Ted was so agreeable with those around him that he didn’t even bother using a fake name when abducting women from a populated park. If he were around today in our paranoid, everything is monitored and recorded world, a world that exists because of obscene people like him, one phone call, one tweet would’ve stopped him and saved many. This was decades ago though, there were no electronic leashes, there was no Law and Order SVU telling us horror stories from the streets. There were no cameras to monitor potential wrongdoing. There was no constant news cycle. There was no internet. There was a deranged man on the loose who looked like the boy next door who could have been anywhere. The best devils resemble angels.
Do we continue to be seduced by serial killers?
The recently premiered four episode Netflix series Conversations with a Killer: the Ted Bundy tapes a project Joe Berlinger was also involved in, tell of the crimes committed by Ted through his own shuddersome voice. In my opinion, the episodes are a bore, they drag on and most of the grizzly details are already known by those who are interested in this subject. This upcoming feature film, however, the one with an exhaustively long title, reveals the insidious acts of America’s most famous serial killer with a fresh take. Make no mistake, Bundy does not get the glory in this movie unlike the others made about him. This time, the focus is on his adoring love Liz Kendall, played by Lily Collins. She tells the story. A perspective introduced in the screenplay written by Michael Werewie. Collins said of her portrayal of Liz, it was an honor to play a victim who is alive and well, a survivor. Collins thought it imperative to represent her truth in the love she shared with Ted as it is so rare to have a point of view like hers. In this way, the same story about the same monster will be told differently. The blinded-by-love approach Liz took to Ted answers the question most of us watching through a present-day lens have; how could she not know?
Director Joe Berlinger who mainly focuses on true crime documentaries (Paradise Lost, 1996) and music based documentaries (Metallica: some kind of monster, 2004) said, “I’ve spent a lot of time on death row looking into the eyes of people accused of horrible things,” he pointed a finger as if Bundy himself were across from him. Berlinger acts in advocacy for victims. He is passionate against heinous injustices like those carried out by serial murderers. He is also the father of girls who are currently the age Bundy preferred his victims to be, so to hear criticism that he is giving glory to the wicked before the official release of the film is a merciless insult. Berlinger picked the screenplay authored by Werewie, the perspective of which, a serial killer’s one true love left it on the blacklist for a long time, for his daughters and everyone else to be reminded that not all monsters have fangs.
Cinematographer Brandon Trost is responsible for the teaser shots that have been released so far. Trost also worked on Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Heller, 2018). As well as This is the End (Goldberg, Rogan 2013). Zac Efron stepping into this nefarious ‘70’s period piece caused quite the uproar for those used to seeing him light up the screen as a heartthrob, it’s possible that this extreme disruption to type-cast is exactly what his career needs. Either we will be convinced of his acting versatility or he will be that former teen star who now reminds everyone of a rapist and a murderer. They do have similar features. Time will tell. For now, it’s reported; “Efron is savagely convincing in the most psychologically-layered performance of his career,” TheWrap’s critic Carlos Aguilar writes of the film. “The actor’s persona as an attractive, clean-cut, straight white man groomed within the Disney machinery — further cemented by turns in bro-friendly comedies — has positioned him as the perfect choice to personify the kind of evil that festers beneath a wholesome façade, neatly packaged for self-preservation.” As far as what Efron thinks of the role, he told Entertainment Tonight; “We look kind of similar and we have some of the same mannerisms but that’s just luck,” he said, on the ET carpet, nervously rubbing his eyebrow.
Stephen Michaud, an author, and journalist who has over 100 hours of recorded conversation with Ted Bundy snuck into the prison under the guise of an investigator to talk with the man made up of nightmares. Stephen talks about the claustrophobia he felt sitting across from Bundy and how he had no idea what a sociopath was before the interviews. It wasn’t easy to get a total narcissist to talk about his crimes. For those unaware of the psychological terminology and the differences between sociopaths and psychopaths, here is a short and sweet explanation. In layman’s terms, Ted had charisma and his intelligence was above average but he was not a genius like Jeffrey Dahmer.
“Casting heartthrob Zac Efron to play Bundy would make one believe he was a ladies’ man, when in reality he had few girlfriends and was dumped by his affluent and successful college sweetheart because he was directionless and insecure. While the docuseries makes note of these facts, they are overshadowed by non-stop dialogue about Bundy’s appearance and his alleged hypnotizing effect on those around him. While on trial in Utah for the kidnapping of Carol DaRonch (who escaped), Bundy wore nice suits, had his hair coiffed, and playfully bantered with reporters about finishing law school. The media ate it up, but the brave eyewitness testimony of DaRonch canceled out Bundy’s lies and he was convicted and sentenced to prison.”-Refinery29
Ted was manipulative, prideful, not ugly and white. He spouted a lot of bull. He was as Michaud put it, “a case of arrested development” that the journalist masquerading as an investigator treated him like a 12-year-old and it worked. Ted took the tape recorder and rambled. Listen to the audio on YouTube or on the ‘You Can’t Make This Stuff Up’ podcast.
How did he get away with it for so long?
Commentary suggests that Bundy’s long evaded capture and subsequent multiple escapes was due to the façade of his pleasant demeanor but more specifically, his colorless skin. Was he successful because of the dense lather that is white, male privilege?
”My issue here is not with Ted Bundy’s resurgence in the media nor is it with hairless heartthrob Zac Efron, my issue is with society’s larger failure to recognise the correlation between Bundy’s privilege, and his murder and rape of at least 36 young women, the youngest of which was 12-year-old Kimberly Leach.”-Sarah Saraj
“The Netflix documentary series concludes with Bundy’s prosecution. In 1979, after a jury finds Bundy guilty and he is sentenced to the death penalty, Judge Edward Cowart took a moment to address Bundy with some kind words: “You’re a bright young man. You’d have made a good lawyer […] I don’t have any animosity to you.” Staring at my TV screen at 1 a.m., I couldn’t believe it… but then, I also could. In 2015, Stanford-swimmer and rapist Brock Turner was sentenced to only six months in county jail after sexually assaulting an unconscious young woman. People were outraged and attributed the lenient sentence to Turner’s privilege as a rich white man. According to Judge Aaron Persky: “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others.”- Gal-Dem Magazine
The concept of WMP (White, Male, Privilege) and White Privilege, in general, are strong themes today but they were dominant themes back in the seventies. It’s been said that all serial killers are white but is that blanket statement true? What other myths are there? What about women who kill? Charlize Theron starred in a biopic about female serial killer, Aileen Wuornos, a Daytona Beach prostitute who slayed seven of her dates in one year. Wuornos was sentenced to death in 2002. Theron won the Oscar for Best Actress in 2004.
Vronsky cites statistics indicating that nearly one in six (16 percent) of serial killers apprehended in the United States since 1820 was a female, either acting alone or as a partner of a male or female offender. What about race? Are they all white? A 2014 Radford/FGCU Serial Killer Database annual statistics report indicated that for the decades 1900–2010, the percentage of white serial killers was 52.1% while the percentage of African American serial killers was 40.3%.
Serial killings account for no more than 1 percent of all murders committed in the U.S. Based on recent FBI crime statistics, there are approximately 15,000 murders annually, so that means there are no more than 150 victims of serial murder in the U.S. in any given year.Oct 24, 2014
An updated and slightly more comforting statistic:
According to research by psychology professor Mike Aamodt at Radford University in Virginia, there were likely about 30 active serial killers operating in the United States as of 2015.Apr 28, 2018.Berlinger’s film is the opposite of Monster (Patty Jenkins, 2003) in that he did it to show people the monsters we don’t see coming. Why are we even talking about Ted Bundy still? Why is he the most famous of those that are the scum of the earth? He wasn’t the first serial killer in the states, that was Herman Webster Mudget or H.H. Holmes. The Devil in the White City is written about America’s first. Was Ted Bundy the serial killer who had the most victims? No, the most prolific modern serial killer is Harold Shipman with 218 proven kills and possibly as many as 250.
The truth of the matter
Ted Bundy was an egomaniac who thought his own legal team was against him and he made a spectacle of himself in the courtroom as his own lawyer because his severe narcissism pushed him to that edge. He did go to law school but he did not become a lawyer. As a psychopath void of empathy but also a sociopath capable of forming a few sincere attachments, Bundy was successful in the realm of manipulation but even then, those tactics burnt out. He blamed pornography and society for what he had done, claiming he had too much liberty, too many choices, again, he was full of bull. It was because of such liberty that he was able to stay free for so long and even when he was caught, it was because of that liberty, the liberty he was born with, that he was able to escape from prison twice, make friends with the guards and even the judge who addressed him as a father would address his son. He manipulated people with the various masks he wore: victim, police officer, fireman, student, but he was always a predator. A predator who knew how to hunt. He studied the institutional group think in law enforcement that existed in the 1970s; no one would kill just to kill. Bundy also knew that back then rap sheets of offenders were inconclusive and most importantly, there was no communication between state to state police departments. What’s truly frightening about Bundy is that no one thought of him as evil because he didn’t look like it, largely didn’t act like it, he overall didn’t seem like it. If there are no monsters under the bed why look anywhere else? Ironically, it is because of Bundy and those alike that society is now suspicious of what was once deemed unquestionably safe. Politicians, priests, mothers, bosses, the devil was once an angel.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile arrives in select theaters and on Netflix May 3rd, 2019.