PARK CITY: The last thing director Joe Berlinger said he wanted to do with his new biopic of Ted Bundy was to glorify the crimes of the notorious serial killer.
The title of the new film by Berlinger, "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile" could suggest that it is a graphic and violent film. That is not the case.
After the film was screened on Sunday at the Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered the night before, Berlinger told the audience he was not interested in violence. Instead, he said he wanted to focus on the victims of the Bundy's history, as well as how they became victims.
"I want to give the audience the same experience of what it is to be seduced by a psychopath," he said. "Many people were attracted to his death by the charm (of Bundy)."
"Extremely evil" stars Zac Efron as Ted Bundy, the killer who confessed to 30 murders, including eight in Utah, before being executed in Florida in 1989.
Lily Collins also stars in the film as Elizabeth Kloepfer, also known as Liz Kendall, Bundy's girlfriend.
Other cast members include John Malkovich as judge presiding over Bundy's trial in Florida, Jim Parsons as Florida prosecutor, Haley Joel Osment as Kendall's post-Bundy boyfriend and Kaya Scodelario as Carole Anne Boone, a woman who then he married Bundy and gave birth to his child.
Berlinger also created the documentary series "Conversations with a murderer: tapes by Ted Bundy," which is currently available on Netflix. He left during the post-production phase of the Netflix series to shoot the fictional version of Bundy's story, he said.
Instead of describing Bundy's crimes, "Extremely evil" begins essentially after he is captured.
It continues its friction with the police in Washington, as well as its judicial treatments in Utah, Colorado and, finally, Florida.
"Washington missed you, Utah gave you away, Colorado lost you, but I'm going to fry you," a boisterous sheriff from Florida tells Bundy later in the film.
The film becomes a partial courtroom drama, partial character study, as it focuses on the effects that Bundy's crimes have on Kendall.
Even though he's a bit concerned about being a vintage piece from the 70s, sleek and stylish, "Extremely Wicked" succeeds in large part because of his sensational cast.
Efron is excellent as Bundy, managing well the sinister charm of the firm for which he became famous. There are several acting scenes worthy of an Oscar montage in the film. It's the best job of his career, no doubt.
Collins is also magnificent as Kendall. His scenes are very demanding physically and emotionally, as they represent Kendall's descent into depression at the hands of Bundy. She goes face to face with Efron in each scene in which the two are together, accumulating emotional weight in each line.
Malkovich comes during the final act of the film to steal the show in his scenes. It is the perfect cast for the extravagant and peculiar judge Edward Cowart. The second half of the film would be a fairly ordinary drama without Malkovich raising it.
Cinematography and editing are creative and daring, too. Berlinger brings vitality and life to an otherwise severe story about death and evil.
And at the bottom of all this is empathy for the victims of this chilling story. The film ends with the names of the 30 known victims of Bundy, before pointing out that experts believe that there were actually many, many more victims.
Berlinger said he wanted to make a film that would rethink the conversation to tell Bundy's story through the perspective of Kendall and the other victims.
"What interests me is Bundy's enduring lesson," he said. "The people who do the worst things in society are those who present themselves as the most pleasant."
"Extremely evil, surprisingly evil and vile" is screened three more times at Sundance, including on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Rose Wagner Center in Salt Lake City. For more information on how to watch the movie, click on this link.
When the films are played on Sundance, they have not yet received a Motion Picture Association of America rating. "Extremely evil" is not clbadified at this time, but will probably be qualified as PG-13 or R.
With part of the history that participates in Utah, there is a lot of local interest in this movie. Here's what you need to know to decide if you want to watch it at Sundance or when a larger release is launched this year:
I counted three uses of the "word called R-nominal" in this movie. They are spaced instead of being one after another.
Apart from those cases, the blasphemy in this film is typical of a film rated PG-13. There are a handful of occasional oaths, but the language is not free.
There are two bad scenes in this movie. The first one is cut before something actually happens, but it shows a woman in a bra and underwear.
The second shows two characters in the act. It shows the naked back of Zac Efron, but there is no other fun in the scene.
There are also several scenes from the prison where the naked male backs are shown.
Near the end of the film, a photo of a crime of a body of a naked, headless woman is briefly shown. At the court scene, another crime photo of the naked butt of a murder victim is shown.
Despite the prolix title of this film, the film shows very little violence. A scene shows a woman who receives a blow to the head with a lever, and shows a small amount of blood.
Some punches and kicks are shown when some prison guards drive an inmate and a very brief fight when a character tries to escape a policeman.
Although none of the horrible murders of Bundy are shown on screen, they are spoken of in some of the scenes in the movie theater.
The characters describe rapes, beatings and murders several times in the movie.
As mentioned above, some photos of the crime of corpses are shown in the scenes of the court. Bloody images of evidence are also shown numerous times.
Since "Extremely Wicked" is a movie about one of the most notorious serial killers in the history of the United States, sometimes it is quite dark, as you can imagine.
Murder and badual badault are prominent problems and appear many times in the film. It also talks about characters who feel insecure as a result of the murders that are happening.
Depression and mental health are another important theme in the film, especially regarding the character of Lily Collins. Kloepfer is clearly deeply affected when she realizes that her boyfriend has been an extremely dangerous man for a long time. She spirals into a depression of a decade, and resorts to alcohol and smoking as a coping mechanism.