Zac Efron trades in his mouse ears for sharp objects
The Santa Clara
May 16, 2019
Netflix’s “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile” casts famous, pretty-boy Zac Efron as the savage, serial killer Ted Bundy, defining itself as a must-watch event even from its very first thrilling scenes.
As startling as it is to see the A-lister in the role of a madman, Efron’s magnetic role proves to be reason this movie does the eerie circumstances of the Bundy killings justice.
On the Netflix menu screen, the film advertises itself as exactly what it is: a crime thriller based on the Bundy killings, told from the perspective of his former lover, Elizabeth Kloepfer, with her novel “The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy” as a guide for the screenplay. The movie’s premise derives itself from the history of one of the most unsettling yet fascinating serial killer cases of the 20th century.
Bundy killed at least 30 identified young women, but the number of homicides is believed to be significantly higher. Bundy lured his victims in with his handsome features and charm, and then brutally murdered them.
His education in law aided him to kill up to 20 women without being detected, and it also gave way to his ability to escape federal imprisonment, not once, but twice.
After being put on trial for his killings in Florida, he also developed a strange following. Young women, fascinated by the beautiful killer, questioned his guilt and declared his innocence, for how could someone so beautiful do such awful things? This illustrates why Zac Efron is the perfect actor for the role.
The popular heartthrob, famous for his role as Troy Bolton in the Disney’s “High School Musical” franchise, seems shockingly misplaced at first glance, however, looking at the real Bundy, the physical similarities in the beauty of the savage killer and the idolized actor become apparent.
Efron’s casting doesn’t prove too far-fetched given the romanticism of the Bundy case, showcasing the true depth of Bundy’s evil. His victims and the people who trusted him were so deceived by the monster’s looks.
With this casting, the directors have also done justice to the strange phenomena that struck society during Bundy’s trial and execution. The public’s adoration for Bundy and his beauty draws into question the sinister values our society places in looks and vanity.
How can we come to understand if our judgements are based on reason or aesthetics? Exactly much of what we do and who we trust is based on outside appearances?
This film would not be what it is without Efron and his established personality: the casting made it even more shocking. It would be fair to say that the ex-Disney actor carried the film and underlined the truth of Bundy’s capabilities, as he was extremely wicked, yet shockingly beautiful. These qualities are what allowed him to kill on such a massive scale, and his power as a charming maniac is made terrifyingly obvious through Efron’s acting.
Despite the beauty and charm of the killer, Bundy was put to death by the electric chair on January 24, 1989.
The film directly confronts the morality of this sentencing with a scene post-trial decision to put Bundy to death, with his mother, played by Forba Shepherd, delivering a statement in court referencing if men should be doing “God’s work.”
This dialogue underlines the question that still lingers in criminal justice today: is the death penalty moral? Netflix’s latest film refuses to give us definite answers to this social conundrum, and leaves the viewer with nothing but questions.
“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile” offers a fascinating tale about a chilling series of murders while directly questioning the darkest characteristics of our society.
Efron ensures that the viewer is left with the terrifying realization that no matter what someone looks like, no matter how beautiful they may be, they are capable of things so wicked we deem them unimaginable until they see the light of day.
Contact Sabrina Moyes at smoyes@ scu.edu or call (408) 554-4852.