Ted Bundy biopic starring Zac Efron accused of glamorizing serial killer

The film just premiered at Sundance.

January 30, 2019, 10:18 AM

The recently-released trailer for the upcoming Ted Bundy biopic "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile" is garnering mixed reactions from fans, critics and media alike.

The Joe Berlinger-directed film, which premiered this weekend at Sundance Film Festival, stars Zac Efron and tells the story of Ted Bundy's infamous, incomprehensible tangled web of murder and deception throughout his life.

The story is told through the perspective of the serial killer's longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, played by actress Lily Collins.

While many sounded off that the film does a fine job at portraying the killer, some critics are taking issue with way in which Bundy is portrayed -- and the way viewers are responding to Efron's portrayal of him in the film.

Shockingly enough, many viewers are taking to social media platforms to comment positively on Efron's physical appearance in character as Bundy -- despite his real-life murderous tendencies. Many seemed to feel the film is glamorizing or even romanticizing Bundy.

A quick Twitter search yields hundreds of results from users calling Bundy, or Efron in character as Bundy, "hot" and other musings related to his physical appearance. Many users have also commented on why doing so is harmful.

Many mentioned Bundy's victims in their criticisms. Bundy committed at least 30 murders but is suspected of many more.

However, some also feel that the portrayal of the killer within the film is accurate.

"I've seen a few people missing the point of this trailer," one user wrote. "The reason the trailer seems to be painting him as this charismatic good guy is because Ted Bundy was a very charismatic, nice all American guy who no one suspected."

The film's director shared the tweet and added, "Exactly!"

The Netflix docuseries "Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes," also directed by Berlinger, brought viewers commenting on attraction to Bundy himself as well.

The startling range of responses from viewers prompted Netflix to tweet, "I've seen a lot of talk about Ted Bundy’s alleged hotness and would like to gently remind everyone that there are literally THOUSANDS of hot men on the service — almost all of whom are not convicted serial murderers."

Berlinger seemed to weigh in on the matter on social media, retweeting an interview he did alongside the film's stars, Efron and Collins, at Sundance.

In the clip, the director adamantly denies the idea that the film glorifies Bundy in any way.

"It's the opposite of glorification," he said in the clip. "Anyone that has that perception needs to see the movie."

"This is a movie about how somebody falls prey to a psychopath, and in order to demonstrate that, you have to show their believability and their sincerity and their credibility so that you can feel the betrayal," he continued.

"The main lesson of Bundy is that, as Bundy himself says, killers don't come out of the shadows with long fangs and blood dripping off their chins -- they're your father, your brother, they're people that you know -- that you loved and admired, who the next day are capable of the most demonic evil imaginable," the director said.

"Unfortunately, that lesson can't be learned enough, and that's the point of the movie," he added. "It's the opposite of glorification."

Berlinger also told ABC's "20/20" about the way they went about crafting Bundy's character in the film.

"We are taking his kind of teen heartthrob image, and turning that on its head," he said. "And we’re -– we’re understanding why women were so attracted to this charismatic killer through Zac’s performance.”

Efron also told Variety that he did not want audiences to misconstrue his portrayal of Bundy.

"I feel a responsibility to make sure that this movie is not a celebration of Ted Bundy," he said. "Or a glorification of him. But, definitely, a psychological study of who this person was. In that, there’s honesty."

Berlinger said one of the reasons Efron was cast was because of his image in popular culture.

"He has 37 million followers on Instagram and he’s one of the main heartthrobs for a certain age of young female," the director told Variety. "Because Bundy’s character is so wrapped up in his sex appeal and charm, I loved the idea of subverting Zac’s sex appeal and charm."

Joe Berlinger issued the following statement to ABC News on Tuesday:

"I am of course very troubled that the trailer may be giving some people the false impression that our movie in any way romanticizes the actions of this horrendous serial killer, so I want to assure those concerned that our film in no way glorifies Bundy or his atrocious acts, nor was the trailer intended to give that impression. Our film is a serious portrait of how Bundy deceived the people closest to him and his manipulation of the American media allowed him to flourish and evade detection and capture for so long. Bundy challenges all of our beliefs of what a serial killer should look like because he used his good looks and intelligence to hide his double life for far too long, and that is the focus of the film. In my documentary work, I have largely focused on criminal justice reform and victim advocacy, as well as the plight of the wrongfully convicted. So, glorifying an obviously guilty and sick individual whose aftermath has meant tragedy for so many would be repugnant to me."