It seems everywhere you look there’s a new story about Ted Bundy, arguably the most prolific serial killer in living memory. The renewed interest in Bundy stems from the Netflix docuseries Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes and the new film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil & Vile which sees Zac Efron attempt to shed his Disney image starring opposite Lily Collins.
The true crime series and movie trailer both debuted last week to mixed reviews. On one hand, there’s the issue that these depictions are romanticising someone who was convicted of raping and murdering over thirty women in the 1970s. Conversely, shouldn’t society be taught that not all monsters have fangs and skulk in dark alleys? Yes, Tend Bundy was good looking and charismatic but why can't we accept that he was also a vile human being?
Netflix took to social media in an attempt to quieten the maelstrom:
Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes focuses on audio interviews with Ted himself, during which he describes in the third person what drove him to murder. Accounts from survivors, police and his ex-girlfriend Liz Kloepfer are interwoven throughout. Even amidst today's obsession with true crime podcasts and documentaries - there’s something about The Ted Bundy Tapes that truly un-nerves even the hardest of viewers. Leading the streaming service to jokingly advise "maybe don't watch it alone."
Coinciding with the release is, of course, the first look at Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil & Vile. Efron, whose performance has been dubbed a “triumph” told Variety: “I feel a responsibility to make sure that this movie is not a celebration of Ted Bundy,”
“Or a glorification of him. But, definitely, a psychological study of who this person was. In that, there’s honesty.” Some reviewers take issue with Zac's boyish wink, looking straight into the camera. For others it was the upbeat rock music in the background, making some feel like they were watching a trailer for a rom-com.
In Ann Rule’s autobiographical book The Stranger Beside Me, she accounts her experience working with Bundy at a crisis hotline. Describing the dichotomy between the man who committed such atrocities and the unassuming co-worker she found to be “warm and loving.”
“Ted has been described as the perfect son, the perfect student, the Boy Scout grown to adulthood, a genius, as handsome as a movie idol, a bright light in the future of the Republican Party, a sensitive psychiatric social worker, a budding lawyer, a trusted friend, a young man for whom the future could surely hold only success,” Rule writes.
“He is all of these things, and none of them. Ted Bundy fits no pattern at all; you could not look at his record and say: ‘See, it was inevitable that he would turn out like this.’ In fact, it was incomprehensible.”
Perhaps that's the reason we're fascinated with Bundy, beyond the terror and evil, we'd like to find an explanation and figure out why he did these things. Yet, maybe it is just as Ann describes it, "incomprehensible" and that should be enough.