Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile First Reviews: Zac Efron Stuns As Ted Bundy

It's a star turn for a former teen heartthrob, but critics are split overall on the buzzy Ted Bundy biopic which premiered at Sundance.

by | January 27, 2019 | Comments

Zac Efron is the talk of the Sundance Film Festival for his portrayal of serial killer Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. And, according to the first wave of reviews from Park City, it’s a career-changing performance. The rest of the movie around Efron, which is directed by renowned documentarian Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost), seems to be dividing critics as to whether the Bundy biopic works – it’s currently at 70% on the Tomatometer after 10 reviews. Depending on which critic you read, the biopic – which is approached from the perspective of Bundy’s girlfriend, played by Lily Collins – is either chillingly effective or uneven and tonally misguided.

Here’s what the critics are saying about Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile:

How great is Efron?

“Efron is savagely convincing in the most psychologically-layered performance of his career.” – Carlos Aguilar, The Wrap

“Efron is pretty pitch perfect here, delivering the best performance of his career thus far.” – Adam Chitwood, Collider

“It does the work of so many Sundance star turns, reframing an actor’s profile at perhaps a crux point in their career.” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

“It’s a theatrical, absorbing performance.” – Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies

“A scenery-chewing spectacle.” – Jordan Raup, The Film Stage

“Despite Efron’s conviction and good looks, he gives us an inscrutable Bundy that never pulls us in.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

“A stunt casting move that somewhat works, but just doesn’t always quite fit.” – Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

Zac Efron

(Photo by JA/Everett Collection)

How is his co-star, Lily Collins?

“Collins does a great job of keeping it all together with the character of Elizabeth, which is no easy task.” – Adam Chitwood, Collider

“[Efron is] matched at every turn by Lily Collins.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

“Against Efron’s juggernaut performance, Collins just can’t quite keep up.” – Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies

“Collins is mostly captured in one-note takes of suffering.” – Carlos Aguilar, The Wrap

Are there any other noteworthy performances?

“John Malkovich is excellent as the sharp-tongued, theatrical judge.” – Chris Bumbray, Jo Blo’s Movie Emporium

“Only Kaya Scodelario, deftly playing obsessed Bundy groupie Carole Anne Boone, transcends the material.” – Carlos Aguilar, The Wrap

“Scodelario is the weak link in an otherwise strong cast…she seems like she’s auditioning for Saturday Night Live rather than playing a real-life figure.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

(Photo by Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Brian Douglas.)

So how is the movie itself?

“[It’s] a thought-provoking piece of cinema that avoids the easy temptation of shock value in favor of a more philosophical take on a diabolical murderer.” – Carlos Aguilar, The Wrap

“A curiosity even if it falters in what it intially sets out to accomplish.”- Jordan Raup, The Film Stage

“The movie itself is only average…good enough to recommend.” – Chris Bumbray, Jo Blo’s Movie Emporium

“It’s a star vehicle that starts and ends with its star, the film around him struggling to justify its existence.” – Benjamin Lee, The Guardian

“[Berlinger] has, essentially, crafted the Bundy biopic that the convicted serial killer would have himself made.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

Does the movie glamorize Bundy and his killings?

“It’s the rare film about a criminal that offers human details without humanizing a man who so many agree was a monster.” – Kate Erbland, IndieWire

“The movie feels almost sympathetic to Bundy.” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

Extremely Wicked rings hollow and false and is really just as interested in the sensational and salacious as any other reductive thriller.” – Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

Extremely Wicked settles for glamorizing, yet again, a murderer who’s been glamorized enough already.” – Angie Han, Mashable

“If the script by Michael Werwie had more restraint to focus solely on Kloepfer’s perspective, then his romanticization might have been more warranted.” – Jordan Raup, The Film Stage

How does the movie balance the material?

“That sense of whiplash? It’s a feature, not a bug in Berlinger’s film.” – Kate Erbland, IndieWire

“[The] switch in narrative creates tonal problems, as Berlinger often goes for comedy – which seems all wrong for this type of story.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

“[It’s] a film that wants to have it both ways, ultimately coming up short.” – Jordan Raup, The Film Stage

“The tone is objectionable, sometimes odious too…Berlinger simply wants to eat his cake and have it too and…it’s more than a little offensive.” – Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

Ted Bundy

Ted Bundy (Photo by Courtesy the Everett Collection)

Does it offer anything new about Bundy?

“It fails to show us anything about Bundy that isn’t already there in archive footage and only scratches the surface of the true depravity its subject was capable of.” – Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies

“Ultimately doesn’t offer many insights into Bundy’s warped mind.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

“The gaze trained on the women who associated with Bundy is largely befuddled and lacking in any sort of insight or depth.” – Esther Zuckerman, Thrillist

What are Extremely Wicked’s biggest problems?

“If Extremely Wicked is guilty of any major sin, it’s sticking almost too closely to the truth.” – Kate Erbland, IndieWire

“Very little in Extremely Wicked is speculative, which is perhaps why it’s strangely lacking in any sort of menace.” – Esther Zuckerman, Thrillist

“The script, by Michael Werwie, too often tells when it should be showing.” – Angie Han, Mashable

“The movie still has the gall to sort of suggest that maybe he is innocent after all.” – Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is playing at the Sundance Film Festival. 

Adjusted Score: 61.358%
Critics Consensus: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile often transcends its narrative limitations through sheer force of Zac Efron's compulsively watchable performance.
Synopsis: Elizabeth Kloepfer refused for years to acknowledge that her boyfriend was a serial killer. Her partner, Ted Bundy, became famous... [More]
Directed By: Joe Berlinger

Tag Cloud

Rock wonder woman Extras cancelled Vudu Superheroes tv talk satire book adaptation President Comic-Con@Home 2021 IFC Films suspense Avengers Image Comics BET Awards SXSW saw Set visit dragons Cartoon Network 2021 NYCC San Diego Comic-Con CMT 99% Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Lifetime Christmas movies Pacific Islander docuseries cinemax Mystery Reality Competition adenture National Geographic Adult Swim trailers Epix FX on Hulu Summer PlayStation what to watch GoT singing competition YA anthology Biopics Animation BBC One The Purge FXX A24 Mary poppins Starz renewed TV shows classics Disney+ Disney Plus robots Martial Arts Sony Pictures dark TCA Winter 2020 Trivia Paramount Network Premiere Dates El Rey TCM transformers A&E Star Wars Paramount Sundance TV festivals award winner parents Peacock marvel cinematic universe Heroines Wes Anderson crime drama HBO Go Comic Book Apple TV+ australia Kids & Family BBC America Pet Sematary crime sag awards Comedy Central franchise Mudbound Winter TV anime Turner Classic Movies child's play crossover stop motion Warner Bros. psycho Discovery Channel hist 21st Century Fox video Fox Searchlight Winners Creative Arts Emmys RT History Spring TV TV One TLC romantic comedy hidden camera comedies blockbuster Marvel Television international blaxploitation 45 news witnail 93rd Oscars screen actors guild Black History Month cults E3 facebook Comedy WarnerMedia movies laika Countdown cars docudrama know your critic justice league TIFF Amazon Studios Columbia Pictures Spectrum Originals Walt Disney Pictures south america FX worst movies superhero PaleyFest RT21 zero dark thirty aapi hollywood war Amazon Bravo teaser Tokyo Olympics Black Mirror Captain marvel Pride Month Tumblr screenings Showtime 20th Century Fox zombie Disney Plus universal monsters TCA Awards Star Trek black emmy awards canceled TV shows golden globe awards harry potter E! festival revenge Music miniseries spanish language SDCC 4/20 Grammys HBO Max Sneak Peek green book worst American Society of Cinematographers Emmy Nominations deadpool new york 2015 Family Television Critics Association Oscars die hard nfl Comics on TV doctor who 24 frames kaiju Teen Britbox best MSNBC FOX Paramount Plus Nominations series Dark Horse Comics Film adventure HBO Stephen King free movies SundanceTV breaking bad Election finale game of thrones aliens 2020 stand-up comedy Crunchyroll police drama VOD chucky Nat Geo ID medical drama Pop MTV Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Rocketman Mary Tyler Moore Superheroe DC Universe Women's History Month television natural history Holiday Watching Series Interview binge serial killer Country women mission: impossible sequels Musical vampires BET name the review Television Academy Tubi asian-american scary movies Disney streaming service TV renewals werewolf pirates of the caribbean prank boxoffice archives Christmas ABC The Witch Pirates unscripted telelvision films mockumentary nbcuniversal Valentine's Day Elton John all-time new zealand The Walt Disney Company theme song USA Network Freeform ghosts cops romance comic Hallmark Christmas movies WGN streaming travel ViacomCBS Mary Poppins Returns dogs Sundance sitcom elevated horror Disney Channel Academy Awards X-Men BBC CBS technology YouTube Premium Nickelodeon target DGA IFC ITV canceled BAFTA Video Games cooking a nightmare on elm street Quiz Podcast razzies Fall TV Spike boxing See It Skip It spanish rotten Logo Year in Review Brie Larson Musicals Chernobyl composers dc TV movies AMC documentary talk show video on demand reboot First Reviews Endgame Arrowverse rt archives Hear Us Out Lionsgate indiana jones Trophy Talk cartoon james bond Horror Red Carpet PBS Awards Tour 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards remakes new star wars movies halloween 2016 Esquire monster movies french sports Photos social media psychological thriller Opinion dceu zombies thriller The Arrangement olympics spain Western period drama Syfy children's TV Fox News joker DC streaming service popular Infographic kids Cosplay Binge Guide richard e. Grant CW Seed 72 Emmy Awards Character Guide jamie lee curtis Lucasfilm 71st Emmy Awards supernatural critics Reality based on movie fast and furious Thanksgiving ABC Family spider-man stoner christmas movies true crime latino Marathons Turner historical drama batman live action scorecard History space scene in color 2017 Pixar ESPN politics Lifetime political drama Awards disaster Ellie Kemper versus Travel Channel Marvel twilight spinoff Hulu TV Land 007 streaming movies TruTV foreign CBS All Access rotten movies we love criterion Funimation quibi golden globes Cannes Film Festival ABC Signature reviews jurassic park Super Bowl movie Tomatazos Anna Paquin Toys New York Comic Con adaptation basketball high school Shudder YouTube halloween tv Marvel Studios directors Amazon Prime Box Office nature dramedy Acorn TV japanese Fantasy slashers crime thriller hispanic Tarantino OneApp toronto Broadway Rom-Com Masterpiece Mindy Kaling MCU Shondaland Schedule Ovation Apple First Look The CW rom-coms TBS Calendar obituary venice Emmys lord of the rings discovery Pop TV cancelled television cancelled TV shows comics godzilla Sundance Now independent Baby Yoda 2018 YouTube Red game show The Academy Legendary Polls and Games cats Alien OWN italian kong Writers Guild of America Drama LGBTQ The Walking Dead ratings spy thriller casting Song of Ice and Fire biography book Best and Worst Hallmark Amazon Prime Video VH1 comiccon APB DirecTV toy story king arthur Apple TV Plus Sci-Fi heist movie cancelled TV series legend Netflix strong female leads superman Exclusive Video blockbusters NBC king kong comic books TCA diversity Universal Certified Fresh 1990s documentaries 90s football Rocky VICE indie animated sequel LGBT Trailer Holidays NBA Disney Netflix Christmas movies Classic Film GIFs Ghostbusters DC Comics science fiction 2019 Food Network CNN Action mutant TCA 2017 japan USA TNT GLAAD Crackle fresh concert TV