WHY ZAC EFRON?
When choosing our medias for this page we wanted to be extremely strategic and talk about diverse sources. The first one that came to mind was this dramatization because of the controversy surrounding it. Casting Zac Efron to play Ted Bundy was an extremely bold move and was not received well by most.
When we think of serial killers and murderers we like to think of them as ugly, misshapen monsters that are obviously up to no good. We never want to associate that darkness and evil with someone attractive or normal. However, it is important to recognize that, even beyond Ted Bundy, a large part of the reason serial killers are successful is because they are attractive, kind and personable. This is why Zac Efron was a perfect casting choice for the role. He is well-liked, attractive and has a large fan base to give attention to the film. Also, he looks eerily similar to Ted Bundy! If Bundy was successful because of his looks then there is no one better to play him than Zac Efron.
This dramatization attacks this head on through their casting and the perspective they choose to align the film with. Most of the movie is told primarily from the perspective of Bundy’s wife, Kendall. To her, he was the man helping her raise her daughter. He didn’t hurt her, but she eventually catches on that he is the man she is seeing on the news. This dramatization uniquely places Ted Bundy in the real world and manages to humanize him while simultaneously documenting his crimes.
IT’S A DRAMATIZATION.. BUT DO THEY TAKE IT TOO FAR?
This film claims to be from the perspective of Ted Bundy’s long term girlfriend Liz, but she is only featured about 50% of the time. Instead, the film uses the perspective of Ted’s home life to incite empathy for a “typical law student” that has been supposedly wrongly accused and arrested. Throughout the duration of the film Netflix made very strategic moves to show the juxtaposition of his fantasy home life and his real world murder.
One scene that sticks out in particular is the one where news footage is shown right after Bundy was first arrested. They transition from straight news footage to just the audio of the reports being played over home movie footage of Bundy with Liz and her daughter Molly. Clearly Ted had become a father figure to Molly and the audience is steered in the direction of sympathy for both Liz and Ted himself. They make moves like this throughout the film that when closely analyzed provide a unique insight into the psychological state of Liz throughout the various trials: Is he innocent? Did he do it? What else could he have done?
At the conclusion of the movie there is a very dramatic (and completely fictional) scene where Bundy writes “HACKSAW” on the glass while Liz is asking him to confess to the murders. Creative liberty is one thing, but this scene takes it too far. In reality, it has never been confirmed that Liz even went to visit Bundy in the days before his execution. If she never visited him, then he surely wasn’t able to confess to her in this manner. Yes, this film is a dramatization so there are going to be fictional aspects that don’t line up with reality but those aspects should be minimized. When casting huge actors like Lily Collins and Zac Efron a certain level of attention is all but guaranteed and therefore demands a certain level of caution.
While this film is exciting, shocking and entertaining it diversifies from the facts of the case a bit too much. If these fictional elements were controlled a bit more, the dramatization would have a lot more credibility and would most likely faced less criticism from the media. There are things to be taken from this film that are extremely important when considering the true crime genre as a whole but overall, it is kind of a let down. The primary, and most important, successful aspect of this film is the conclusion and credits. By ending the film with the names of Bundy’s victims the audience is reminded of what really matters, which the true crime genre leaves out all too often.