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Film / Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile

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Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile is a 2019 Biopic starring Zac Efron as the notorious true-life Serial Killer Ted Bundy.

The movie tells Bundy's story largely through the eyes of Elizabeth Kloepfer (Lily Collins), his long-time girlfriend who held out hope for years that he was innocent. The movie also stars Kaya Scodelario, Dylan Baker, Haley Joel Osment, Jeffrey Donovan, Jim Parsons, and John Malkovich. It premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival before being acquired by Netflix ahead of a May 3 release. The trailer can be seen here.

The director, Joe Berlinger, also made the Netflix documentary series Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, which was released ahead of this film's Sundance premiere.

Tropes Associated With This Movie Include:

  • Adapted Out: Diane Edwards, the posh, dark-haired woman whose breakup with Bundy is thought to have triggered his killing spree, is not mentioned in the film. Instead, Liz is portrayed as the only woman Bundy ever really loved.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The film opens with Kloepfer visiting Bundy on Death Row in Florida. This did not happen; Liz and Ted never saw each other again after he was extradited to Colorado in 1977 (although he did call her after his Florida arrest in 1978).
    • The guilty plea that Bundy tentatively accepts and then rejects in open court, the one that would have saved his life, was actually in a pretrial hearing rather than after the Chi Omega trial was underway as in this film. And his courtroom "marriage" to Carole Ann Boone actually took place during his second Florida murder trial, for the death of Kimberly Leach. And the daughter that Boone had by Bundy was born three years after his conviction in the Chi Omega murders.
    • Jerry is a fictional counterpart to "Hank" (real name unknown), a man that Kloepfer met in Alcoholic Anonymous and who was not her coworker. While not left out completely, Kloepfer's drinking problem is downplayed and portrayed as arising after Bundy's first arrest. In reality, Kloepfer had a drinking problem during the better part of her relationship with Bundy, and missed some of his disturbing behavior because of it. For example, Bundy attempted at one point to suffocate her with fumes while she was asleep and she woke up coughing, but she attributed it to a bad hangover. She did not learn the truth until she asked Bundy if he had ever tried to kill her, when he was already in custody in Florida.
    • The aforementioned disturbing behavior also included Bundy having unexplained mood swings, pushing Liz off a boat once for no reason, telling her to pretend to be dead while they had sex, having a hatchet under his car seat, stealing a crowbar from her, having crutches and plaster of Paris in the house (which he used to fashion an arm cast and lure victims by asking them for help), as well as a mysterious collection of keys. The only incident that made it into the film was Bundy spying on Liz under the sheets with a flashlight, but it is easily explained as him not trying to disturb her while reading. It is obviously intended to make Liz's final realization more of a twist, but it also makes the fact that she reported Bundy as a suspect to authorities almost come from nowhere (in reality, she did it three times).
    • Bundy and Kloepfer did not plan to adopt a dog from a shelter. The scene is probably inspired by Ann Rule's dog, who would shy away and growl whenever Bundy tried to pet it.
  • As You Know: The film gets out some exposition regarding Liz Kloepfer's life in one of her first lines, when she tells her friend in the bar that "No one is going to want to go with a single mom who works as a secretary."
  • Ax-Crazy: As a notorious serial killer, Ted Bundy had a penchant for regularly killing and raping women and some pictures in the movie reveals shocking details for how his murders were committed. That being said, he is very good at hiding it.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The first time Kloepfer sleeps with Bundy, she wakes up to find him and her young daughter Molly missing (they are actually having breakfast downstairs).
  • Beard of Sorrow: Bundy grows a beard after he is held without bail for murder. It’s actually a pretty clever part of his escape plan. He goes on TV while he has the beard and shaves it off before escaping so that people are less likely to recognize him.
  • Bigger Than Jesus: "I'm more popular than Disney World."
  • Blatant Lies: Bundy does this constantly and without remorse, due to being a psychopath.
  • The Charmer: Bundy, infamously so. It is what helped him disguise his sociopathy for years.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Bundy and Judge Cowart have an ease producing sarcasm.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Bundy is able to hop out of a courthouse window and make his escape in Aspen because the deputy who was supposed to be watching him was talking to a pretty woman who had been in the audience for Ted's court hearing.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: In-Universe: Ted Bundy gets a load of this treatment, particularly from women who find him too attractive to think about the attrocities he is being charged for. Carole Ann Boone especially treats Bundy this way and actively tries to make him proclaimed innocent.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Kloepfer starts drinking after Bundy is convicted for the first time and stops only after his last trial.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Ted and Liz go to adopt a dog. The one Liz selects takes an immediate dislike to Ted.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Ted Bundy is a charismatic psychopath and is a skilled manipulator.
  • A Fool for a Client: Bundy fires his lawyer halfway through his Florida trial and continues from then on as his own attorney. The usual setup of the trope is subverted in that Bundy is actually commended for being a good lawyer by the judge, and in that the case was airtight and could only end in a conviction, independently of Bundy defending himself or not.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "Let me go back to plot my escape here". At the time, Bundy was not thinking of escaping, but later he does.
    • Ted tells Liz he's reading a book called Papillon about a guy who was wrongly convicted of murder and sent to jail. He refuses to give away the ending. Papillon, you guessed it, escaped—and Ted makes his escape from the Aspen courthouse soon after.
  • Freakier Than Fiction:
    • The "hacksaw" revelation is loosely based on an even more disturbing confession that Bundy made to a detective, namely, that he cut a victim's head off and incinerated it in Liz's fireplace.
    • Bundy also confessed to have engaged in necrophilia during his last interviews. This isn't mentioned or hinted at in any way during the movie.
  • Harmful to Minors: Bundy's last and youngest victim was 12.
  • Headbutt of Love: Ted and Liz do this during their first dance on their first date, indicating that they are hitting it off very well indeed.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: A non-fatal example. Carole Ann Boone almost realizes what a manipulative, psychopathic scumbag Ted really is, but he quickly regains control over her by proposing marriage.
  • Historical Beauty Upgrade:
    • The real Kloepfer looked more like the extra playing her daughter than Lily Collins.
    • Judge Cowart was an obese, clean-shaven (which made him look more obese) man in his 50s. Not quite the well-carried avuncular John Malkovich.
    • Despite the unfavorable (but accurate) glasses, hair, and clothing, Kaya Scodelario is still more conventionally pretty than the real Boone, who was taller, lankier and slightly more masculine-looking.
    • Due to the short shooting period, Efron didn't lose weight like the real Bundy did to escape prison.
  • Historical Villain Downgrade:
    • As explained in Artistic License – History and Freakier Than Fiction, Bundy was not as much the perfect boyfriend as in the film and he actually tried to kill Liz twice, albeit half-heartedly. His necrophilia is never hinted at, and the "hacksaw" reveal leaves out the fact that he burned that head in Liz's fireplace.
    • Kloepfer's drinking problem seems downplayed to make her more sympathetic to the audience, who might question her ability to raise a child otherwise.
  • How We Got Here: It starts out with Liz visiting Ted in prison in Florida, in what is revealed to be Death Row, before jumping back to the start of the relationship.
  • It's All My Fault: Kloepfer blames herself for Bundy's arrest because she was the one who put forward his name as a suspect in the first place.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: As the movie progresses, Bundy gets more careless and impulsive, leading to his arrests and final conviction.
  • Just One Little Mistake:
    • Bundy is caught the first time because he ran a stop sign and was carrying obvious kidnapping tools on the backseat of his car.
    • The second time, he is caught for speeding (in a stolen car!) and then assaulting the cop. The cops don't know who he is or that he is related to the sorority attacks until a while after he is arrested.
  • The Lost Lenore: In a weird way, Bundy becomes this to Kloepfer, and Kloepfer becomes this to Bundy, long before Bundy is executed.
  • Love at First Sight: Kloepfer and Bundy meet in a bar and become a couple almost right away.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Bundy again. He lies constantly and tries to sweet talk his way with everyone to regain freedom and kill again. He even tries to blame Kloepfer for his first escape and accuses Boone of manipulating him for bringing his mother to encourage him to plead guilty in order to avoid the death penalty.
  • Monster Fangirl: Carole Ann Boone, who cannot (or will not) see the truth about Ted despite the evidence continuing to pile up. He gains a bigger young female following during his final trial that baffles the press.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Not said with words, but the credits include real footage of some of the most unbelievable events in the movie. And you can see they are pretty much identical.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: What makes the "hacksaw" revelation scary. While we don't see the action, we hear it.
  • Offscreen Villainy: Most of the violence happens off-screen.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Discussed when Ted's mother comes to visit him during his Florida trial in order to convince him to plead guilty in exchange for avoiding the death penalty.
    Eleanor Louise Cowell: A mother shouldn't have to outlive her son.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Downplayed. Florida law enforcement and prosecution openly take it as a point of pride that their state is going to be the one to take Bundy down (with implied disdain for the states that failed to stop him earlier).
    Sheriff Katsaris: Washington missed you, Utah gave you away, and Colorado let you escape. Florida's gonna fry you.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Liz and Ted's entire relationship before he gets arrested is barely fifteen minutes of time. The film includes the bit where he looked at her body under the sheets with a flashlight but leaves out all the other weird things from their time together. Like the time Liz found a collection of keys in Ted's room, or the time she found plaster of Paris (used for making casts), or the time she confronted him about his shoplifting habits and he threatened to "break your f——-g neck" if she told, or the time he just threw her off a dock for no reason at all. Bundy's second Florida trial, where he was convicted of murdering 12-year-old Kimberly Leach, is also omitted, although there is a passing reference to her as a victim.
  • Rapid-Fire Descriptors: This pattern of rapid-fire adjectives and adverbs is used in the movie title (Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile).
  • Saying Too Much: The Colorado cop that visits Bundy in Utah prison asks him if he was ever in Colorado, and takes his evasions as confirmation that he committed murders there. Why? Because the cop never said that he was investigating a murder, and he already had evidence that Bundy had been in Colorado, but for innocuous reasons. Bundy being reluctant to admit ever being there instead of admitting being there for normal reasons points to him being there for not-so-normal reasons too.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Bundy's first lawyer sticks with him after his conviction in Utah, but when he's accused of murder in Colorado, the lawyer just says that he will recommend him new lawyers there and leaves almost without letting Bundy finish replying.
  • Serial Killer: Ted Bundy is one of the deadliest in American history and probably one of the most infamous in the world.
  • Sexual Karma: Compared to the early sex scene between Bundy and Kloepfer, which cut away before real action, the sex scene between Boone and Bundy in jail looks vulgar and almost animalistic.
  • Shameful Strip: Ted's predicament is brought home to him when he's taken off to prison in Utah after being convicted of attempted kidnapping, and he has to shed his nice courtroom suit and strip naked in the presence of a guard.
  • Shower of Angst: Kloepfer starts doing these after Bundy is found guilty.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Bundy tries to gain the trust of the Florida sheriff (without knowing who he is) but he stops him right there. The sheriff is actually there to get a model of his teeth to compare with the victims marks in the sorority house.
  • Sidelong Glance Biopic: It tells Ted Bundy's story from his girlfriend's perspective.
  • The Sociopath: Bundy was diagnosed as one in real life, and is shown to be one in this portrayal, too. He's incredibly charming and manipulative, only shows care to people when he's trying to get something out of them, and is a violent and impulsive savage.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Boone gets pregnant with Bundy's child while he is in his third trial and gives birth while he is on death row.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Boone confesses that she'd been following Bundy long before he was arrested in Florida. The only reason she was in Utah to meet him by "coincidence" was because he was there.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Invoked by the real Bundy during the closing credits. Murderers don't look like monsters, but like normal people. That's how they blend in and lure their victims.
  • Time-Passes Montage: The entirety of Liz and Ted's relationship in Washington, five years, is demonstrated with a brief home movie montage of Liz and Ted celebrating her daughter's birthday, celebrating Christmas, and having fun in winter snow, interspersed with stock footage clips of the mysterious murder spree in Washington in 1974.
  • Title Drop: The title comes from the sentencing statement issued by Judge Edward D. Cowart, but it is not an exact repetition of it.
  • Timeshifted Actor: Done to show the growth of Kloepfer's daughter, who is in the cradle at the beginning of the film and an adult by its conclusion.
  • Villain Protagonist: The film follows how Ted Bundy evades the law and his relationship with Liz.
  • What a Senseless Waste of Human Life: After Bundy is finally sentenced to death, the judge comments on how pitiful it is that such a gifted person like Bundy with a promised future had to throw it away just to commit his crimes.
  • Wham Line: Notable in that it is written rather than spoken, but "Hacksaw"
  • Wolverine Publicity: Jim Parsons (better known as Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory) plays one of the prosecuting attorneys. His role is not a terribly substantial one, yet his character is featured on one of Netflix's promotional images for the movie, as if to tell people, "hey, look! Sheldon is in this movie!"
  • Would Hurt a Child: One of Bundy's victims was a twelve-year old girl.