At the 2019 Sundance Movie Festival, the new Ted Bundy film, titled “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” took to the big screen for the first time. The film’s trailer was released to the public on Jan. 25 and social media immediately turned into a frenzy.
The film stars Zac Efron as Bundy and Lily Collins as Bundy’s girlfriend Liz Kendall. The trailer was criticized by many, who said it portrayed Bundy as “hot” and downplayed the fact that he’s a serial killer. The trailer is full of intimate scenes between Efron and Collins and features a clip of a shirtless Efron in a jail cell, all while the background music sounds like an opening scene of a fast-paced action film.
“Ted Bundy was a serial killer, rapist and necrophile who brutally murdered 30+ women with zero remorse but the marketing team of Zac Efron movie decided to go with this casual comical tone? What’s not clicking ma’am,” wrote one Twitter user in response to the trailer.
Others think the trailer captures Bundy’s ability to lure women in. Between 1974 and 1978 Bundy abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered at least 30 women in seven different states. Portrayed as an ambitious young law student by the media, Bundy notoriously used a number of different stories to lure women in.
“The movie [is] not romanticizing him, he was ROMANTICIZED in real life!!! The movie [is] just showing how he was able to use his ‘handsomeness’ to evade being caught I honestly don’t see anything wrong and I’m going [to] see the movie,” explained another Twitter user.
But where is the line drawn in Hollywood? Is there a difference between staying true to what occurred and sensationalizing a gruesome killer? Those who believe the Bundy movie is capitalizing off of tragedy would argue filmmakers have an ethical responsibility to not overplay the death of so many women.
“That’s what people like to see,” sophomore Television and Film major Anthony Ring said.
“Sometimes the original story of a serious incident is not as entertaining. So you have to overplay them to make people want to see the movie,” he said. Ring believes filmmakers have to dramatize the truth and the Bundy movie is an example of that. For decades movies based on real serial killers have been turned into blockbusters, grossing millions of dollars.
“I personally find glamorizing the actions of a serial killer reprehensible,” St. John’s Production Professor, Edrex Fontanilla said. “I encourage filmmakers to take responsibility for the positions they take and to be accountable for the provocations they make.”
Whether it’s ethical or not, it seems Hollywood doesn’t have any plans of stopping. Ultimately, the decision to support these films is in the hands of the moviegoers.