“It was just…I don’t know, a little bit dry?” – me to my friend as I expressed my utter disappointment with Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, to which she responds, “I know right…I just wasn’t that into it.”
The highly anticipated release of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile was for lack of a better word, a flop. As I debriefed with my friend just hours after it aired, the tone of our conversation was that of defeat and disappointment. Three months worth of hype led to what really was, an ultimate ‘missed the mark’ kind of moment. Admittedly, we weren’t really on board the whole ‘Zac Efron is the sugar to my tea’ train, either. We were just really invested in this true crime story, like a lot of people were, and we were really hoping for a well-executed documentary. It just wasn’t the case…
Since Netflix’s release of the Ted Bundy Tapes, a sizeable chunk of the female population were revelling in their shared hysteria as they anxiously awaited the documentary. Bundy continues to be the (chillingly) charming serial killer he was so notorious for. Three decades later and he isn’t any less terrifying. Honestly though, Extremely Wicked missed the mark in a handful of ways and whilst it could’ve been forgiven, the hype for this show renders it totally liable to any type of criticism people throw.
The Storyline Was Yes, Dry
Whilst the movie seemed to fulfil a lot of fan girl demands, the treatment of its overall storyline lacked any gripping features. It seemed like Berlinger’s fascination with portraying Bundy’s unique allure came at a cost, as there was hardly any attention given to the murders themselves. I guess by drawing so much screen time to the trial, and Bundy’s weird and unrequited relationship with Carole Anne, Berlinger directed attention away from the victims’ experiences; failing to offer them justice for the horrible magnitude of crimes committed.
This was, of course, an interesting lens for director Joe Berlinger to adopt, and whilst it certainly served Bundy’s manipulative side justice, the crimes themselves were compensated. One glaring element of this true crime story is the magnitude of murders, and I just don’t think solely focusing on Bundy’s psyche and cult following can tell the entire story. In over 1 hour and 59 minutes of screen time, time restraint doesn’t really serve as an excuse.
Character Depth Was Totally Amiss
In Berlinger’s attempt to capture Bundy’s manipulative psyche to its absolute entirety, the development of other key characters was half-hearted. Liz deserved more prominence than she was given, and little attention was paid to the importance of her relations with Detective Jerry Thompson. Whilst the drawn-out trial features a number of crosses to Liz, as she watched alongside Det. Thompson in her home, there’s a huge lack of any real dialogue between the two. I feel any screen time given to Det. Thompson was weird and unfamiliar, as I just felt I didn’t quite understand the character or role he played.
Less time awarded to the importance and depth of other key figures in the story line would have made for a more gripping (less dry) experience.
Who Was Berlinger Sympathising With?
In Berlinger’s treatment of Bundy involved placing a huge emphasis on his domineering role inside the courtroom, as well as the cult-like following that rapidly formed in admiration for him. This was a conscious decision by Berlinger, and yet I feel as though the victims’ experiences weren’t awarded the justice they truly deserve. Whilst in its nature, this documentary was inevitably going to paint Bundy in his true, manipulating and frighteningly dominating persona, my heart goes out to both the victims and their families who are forced to endure the pervasiveness of this guy’s heinous being and crimes even three decades beyond his death.
A warning for future viewers is watch this piece with caution. It’s highly selective, a little bit substance-less and could be done way better. The hype for this damn thing just seems ridiculous, now.