Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

I truly don't understand why this film exists.

Joe Berlinger released his documentary series, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bunny Tapes earlier this year. The series is wholly effective in examining the crimes of Bundy from multiple viewpoints: law enforcement, psychiatrists, attorneys, and Bundy's personal acquaintances. It covers every base, it is succinct and well made: it is both informational and overwhelmingly emotionally rich. So, why did Berlinger make his documentary series, and this biopic?

I believe the main purpose was to explore Elizabeth Kendall, Bundy's longtime girlfriend: detracting from the serial killer to a more empathetic character, a character fascinated with the killer just as the audience is. It's a common screenwriting strategy in films of this nature, Zodiac, Se7en, The Silence of the Lambs, films about violent individuals, without being about them. These films are about the ripple effect they cause. It's the most respectful way to make them, especially when based on real events. This kind of screenplay eliminates needless violence and gore, always focusing on the aftermath instead of the bloodbath.

But this film really isn't about Elizabeth Kendall, despite its intention. Zac Efron's Bundy is what the film is about. It's almost as if Berlinger wants to make a film entirely about Ted Bundy: reenacting crimes, following his every move, inventing inner monologue, but is stifled by his own morality. It creates this odd push-pull, tonal imbalance, tightrope walking film that isn't exploitation, isn't character examination, isn't exactly courtroom drama, it's just Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.