zodiac killer movie review ted bundy

Are These Rumors True About Zodiac Killer?

Allegedly, he was a fan of lady gaga, trolled ted bundy online, and had a friend who wanted the world to know about his murderous past., jessica lee, published oct. 9, 2021.


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A team of private investigators, called the "Case Breakers," claimed to have uncovered evidence to pin the prolific series of unsolved murders that terrorized Northern California in the late 1960s on a man who died in 2018. As a result, Internet sleuths circulated numerous posts supposedly showing traces of the man's internet persona. However, it was erroneous to claim those posts showed genuine photographs of, or comments written by, the Zodiac killer because federal and local investigators tasked with solving the cold case have not identified a suspect, as of this writing.

In early October 2021, a group of private investigators announced it had evidence that a California man who died several years prior was the Zodiac Killer. Despite the lack of confirmation from law enforcement authorities on the veracity of that belief, the revelation sparked news stories , as well as makeshift investigations by social media users into the man's life before his death.

In short, popular tweets and Reddit threads made numerous allegations, such as the Zodiac killer was a Lady Gaga fan; trolled serial killer Ted Bundy online; supported the Minnesota Vikings' NFL team; and had a friend who wanted the world to know about his murderous past.

Numerous Snopes readers sent us requests, or searched our site, for truth behind those rumors — as well as reliable information on whether the 52-year-old mystery was indeed solved.

zodiac killer movie review ted bundy

The rumors were fueled by the work of the " Case Breakers " — a group of roughly 40 former law enforcement officers, prosecutors, journalists, and intelligence officials who aim to solve murder cases.

After supposedly comparing photographs to a police sketch, analyzing anagrams, and interviewing witnesses, the Case Breakers in early October released the name of the man who they believed terrorized northern California in the late 1960s as the Zodiac. Some media outlets, such as Fox News and Deadline , published stories identifying the man.

“I absolutely feel we solved this case,” Tom Colbert, a member of the group, told the San Francisco Chronicle .

“There’s no ego here,” he continued. “We do this to solve cases.”

FBI, Police Push Back on Cold Case Team's Findings

The Chronicle's newsroom, as well as police, get hundreds of tips every year on potential Zodiac suspects and solutions to the case, according to the newspaper.

For instance, a team led by a former California Highway Patrol Officer announced in 2011 that it believed a 91-year-old former real estate agent was responsible for the slayings; however, investigators said there wasn't enough evidence to substantiate the theory.

Cue the Case Breakers' October 2021 announcement. In addition to five killings in 1968 and 1969 in the Bay Area (murders that the FBI has conclusively linked to the Zodiac), the Case Breakers believe the serial killer also murdered Cheri Jo Bates , an 18-year-old woman slain hours away in Southern California's Riverside in 1966.

However, Riverside Police Officer Ryan Railsback debunked that theory in an interview with the Chronicle. "If you read what they (the Case Breakers) put out, it’s all circumstantial evidence. It’s not a whole lot," Railsback told that newspaper.

In fact, federal and local investigators tasked with solving the Zodiac case aren't sold on any of the private team's findings; they say the search to find the Zodiac remains ongoing.

"Sources at both agencies [the FBI and San Francisco Police Department] told The Chronicle the evidence presented by the Case Breakers does not appear to be conclusive," the newspaper reported .

Furthermore, San Francisco's FBI bureau tweeted on Oct. 7:

zodiac killer movie review ted bundy

When we reached out to the FBI ourselves, its communications team referred us to the above-displayed tweet.

Snopes also contacted the San Francisco Police Department, and a spokesperson responded via email: "The SFPD's investigation into the Zodiac case is open and ongoing. As a consequence we cannot comment further on the investigation."

Because the agencies consider the case ongoing, Snopes is not naming the man who the Case Breakers believes was the Zodiac — apparently an Air Force veteran who died in 2018. For the purpose of this report, we will call him "the Case Breakers' man." He lived in the Sierra foothills and died at the age of 80, according to the Chronicle , which cited court records.

Journalists with that newspaper reportedly spoke with a relative of the man six years before the Case Breakers' October 2021 announcement. Also, they talked to the man's daughter-in-law on Oct. 6, and she said that she believes the Case Breakers "nailed the killer." The Chronicle published:

The Chronicle was called six years ago by a relative of the Case Breakers suspect, who said the man lived in Groveland (Tuolumne County) and had tried to kill him with a hammer. He contacted investigators, but when The Chronicle followed up with law enforcement, they said the Zodiac connection did not appear to be there. The Groveland man’s former daughter-in-law told The Chronicle on Wednesday that she was intimately familiar with the other relative’s fears, and she believes the Case Breakers have nailed the killer. She lives out of state and said she moved to get away from threats from the man and his supporters. The Case Breakers suspect died in 2018 of natural causes, she said. County records show he was 80. “It’s my birthday today, and this all coming out is a great birthday present for me,” said Michelle Wynn, 52. The Case Breakers suspect “is the Zodiac, without a doubt. Being around him, knowing his demeanor and his shadiness and twistedness — I have an intuition, I can read people.” Wynn said the 1969 police sketch “was like a bell-ringer for me. ... I saw that and thought, ‘That’s him.’ Totally,” she said.

In short, while a team of private investigators claimed to have identified the Zodiac and a relative of that man reportedly told journalists that she believed he was "the Zodiac without a doubt," federal and local law enforcement agencies including the FBI have not confirmed — nor given any indication — that that was indeed true.

Additionally, critics of the Case Breakers' findings include Michael Hobbes , of the Huffington Post and the podcast, “ You’re Wrong About ," and Jay Barmann , a writer for SF News.

zodiac killer movie review ted bundy

Was The Zodiac a Lady Gaga, Minnesota Vikings Fan?

After some news reports published the full name of the Case Breakers' man, Twitter did what Twitter does best — ragtag sleuthing and meme-ing.

On Oct. 8, Barstool Sports compiled a sample of theories circulating widely about the man under the headline, " Alleged Zodiac Killer Had Ironic Internet Presence. "

That piece cited viral tweets claiming the following: that the Zodiac had supposedly left a glowing review of Lady Gaga's 2016 "Joanne" album on metacritic.com ; trolled Ted Bundy in a review on an IMDb page; and had a friend who repeatedly outed him as the person behind the brutal slayings on social media.

Let us start with the assertion that the serial killer was among Gaga's Little Monsters . The Barstool Sports' piece included a tweet supposedly showing screenshots of the Case Breakers' man leaving a comment on the metacritic.com profile of "Joanne," on Oct. 24, 2016, reading: "A national treasure, like myself."

zodiac killer movie review ted bundy

However, we analyzed thousands of reviews on the album's profile, including those published on Oct. 24, 2016, and found no such remark.

The screenshot appeared to be a digital creation. Over the course of hours, other Twitter users meme-afied the concept with similarly edited images, supposedly showing the man's affinity for various video games , bands , and musical artists .

The claim about the 2015 documentary titled "The Hunt for Ted Bundy" seemed to be the same thing: An unknown digital artist apparently replicated the look and design of an IDMb review to make it seem like the Case Breaker man left the review, "Awful. Would give less than 1 star if I could. Ted Bundy is wildly overrated."

zodiac killer movie review ted bundy

We came to that conclusion by studying the documentary's actual IMDb page , which only had one review and was not the phrases pictured above.

Next, we addressed the rumor about a friend to the Case Breakers' man "trying to tell everyone" about his murderous past.

There was no verified evidence to prove the friend was a real person who knew the Case Breakers' man, and/or that he had authored the alleged posts about the Zodiac. If there was any reason to consider their authenticity, journalists with reputable news outlets, such as the Chronicle, would attempt to interview the purported friend. That had not happened, as of this writing, however.

We reached out the viral tweet's author to learn how, or with what evidence, they obtained photographs supposedly showing the Case Breakers' man and the friend, as well as screenshots of the friend supposedly calling the former man the Zodiac. We haven't heard back, but we will update this report if that changes.

Additionally, tweets and Reddit threads circulated photos of someone who they believed was the Case Breakers' man wearing a hat representing the Minnesota Vikings NFL team . Several sports blogs recirculated that allegation, too.

"The man allegedly outed as the Zodiac Killer was a Vikings fan," a Reddit post read.

zodiac killer movie review ted bundy

However, no evidence proved that the man pictured above in a Vikings hat was the same person as the Case Breakers' man. The picture matched the profile photograph for a Facebook account with the same name, however — an account that had little activity viewable to the public aside from a July 2011 post sharing a Washington Post article about Casey Anthony .

All of this said, it was impossible for social media users' investigations into the Case Breakers' man to prove anything about the Zodiac killer — that he was a Lady Gaga fan, Viking's supporter, Bundy troll, etc. — because federal and local investigators tasked with solving the case refuted the private team's work, and considered the person behind the prolific slayings unknown. For that reason, we rate this claim "False."

Casiano, Louis. “Cold Case Team Says Zodiac Killer ID’d, Linking Him to Another Murder.” Fox News , 4 Oct. 2021, https://www.foxnews.com/us/cold-case-zodiac-killer-identified-murder.

Fagan, Kevin. “Zodiac Killer Case Solved? Case Breakers Group Makes an ID, but Police Say It Doesn’t Hold Up.” San Francisco Chronicle , 6 Oct. 2021, https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Zodiac-Killer-case-solved-Case-Breakers-16514228.php.

HarinFootball, Billy. Alleged Zodiac Killer Had Ironic Internet Presence. https://www.barstoolsports.com/blog/3387802/alleged-zodiac-killer-had-ironic-internet-presence. Accessed 8 Oct. 2021.g, Bruce, and Bruce Haring. “Zodiac Killer, Long-Sought Bay Area Serial Murderer, Identified By Cold-Case Task Force.” Deadline, 7 Oct. 2021, https://deadline.com/2021/10/zodiac-killer-bay-area-criminal-case-breakers-1234851218/.

“Case of the Zodiac Killer Takes Another Twist – but Police Say It Isn’t Solved.” The Guardian , 8 Oct. 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/oct/08/zodiac-killer-investigation.

CNN, Sarah Moon and Cheri Mossburg. “Group Claims It Has Solved the Identity of the Zodiac Killer as Law Enforcement Investigates.” CNN , https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/06/us/zodiac-killer-identity-law-enforcement-investigation/index.html. Accessed 8 Oct. 2021.

“Zodiac Killer: Authorities Rebuff Cold Case Team’s New Lead.” BBC News , 7 Oct. 2021. www.bbc.com , https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-58837900.

“‘The Case Remains Open’: FBI Rebuts Claim Zodiac Killer Case Is Solved.” NBC News , https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/case-remains-open-fbi-refutes-claim-zodiac-killer-case-solved-n1281002. Accessed 8 Oct. 2021.

dc. “The Last Zodiac Victim.” The Case Breakers , 29 Sept. 2021, https://thecasebreakers.org/2021/09/the-last-zodiac-victim/.

The Hunt for Ted Bundy (2015) - IMDb . www.imdb.com , https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4774372/reviews. Accessed 8 Oct. 2021.

Cold Case Unit | Riverside Police Department . https://riversideca.gov/rpd/about-contact/operations/investigations-division/cold-case-unit. Accessed 8 Oct. 2021.

“The Zodiac Killer.” FBI , https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2007/march/zodiac_030207. Accessed 8 Oct. 2021.

This report was updated to note the FBI's response to Snopes' inquiry about its investigation into the Zodiac case.

This report was updated to include the San Francisco Police Department's response to Snopes' inquiry about its investigation.

By Jessica Lee

Jessica Lee is Snopes' Senior Assignments Editor with expertise in investigative storytelling, media literacy advocacy and digital audience engagement.

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Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

2019, Biography/Crime, 1h 50m

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Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile often transcends its narrative limitations through sheer force of Zac Efron's compulsively watchable performance. Read critic reviews

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Extremely wicked, shockingly evil and vile videos, extremely wicked, shockingly evil and vile   photos.

A chronicle of the crimes of Ted Bundy from the perspective of his longtime girlfriend, who refused to believe the truth about him for years.

Rating: R (Nudity|Language|Disturbing/Violent Content|Some Sexuality)

Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama

Original Language: English

Director: Joe Berlinger

Producer: Nicolas Chartier , Michael Costigan , Ara Keshishian , Michael Simkin

Writer: Michael Werwie

Release Date (Streaming): May 3, 2019

Runtime: 1h 50m

Production Co: Netflix, COTA Films, Voltage Pictures, Ninjas Runnin' Wild Productions

Aspect Ratio: Scope (2.35:1)

Cast & Crew

Lily Collins

Liz Kendall

Haley Joel Osment

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John Malkovich

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Florida Prosecutor Larry Simpson

Angela Sarafyan

James Hetfield

Officer Bob Hayward

Jeffrey Donovan

Utah Defense Attorney John O'Connell

Dylan Baker

Utah Prosecutor David Yocom

Joe Berlinger

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Jonathan Deckter

Nicolas Chartier

Michael Costigan

Ara Keshishian

Michael Simkin

Marco Beltrami

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Every ted bundy movie ranked worst to best (including no man of god).

Hollywood's strange obsession with serial killer Ted Bundy continues with No Man Of God, but which is the best movie about the notorious criminal?

  • Ted Bundy movies tap into the morbid fascination with real-life monsters and the macabre, making them compelling for audiences.
  • Some Ted Bundy movies inaccurately exploit the story for entertainment value, while others attempt to provide insight into his mindset and crimes.
  • The popularity of Ted Bundy movies can be attributed to his attractive appearance, which belied the heinous nature of his acts, and the disturbing horror movie-like elements of his crimes that pique curiosity.

Serial killers are a recurrent topic in movies and TV shows, and the most notorious understandably inspire the healthiest box-office returns and streaming numbers, so it’s no shock there have been many Ted Bundy movies. The world has unfortunately seen too many serial killers through the years, with different modus operandi and targets, but some have turned out to be too fascinating to the audience and the entertainment industry, making them part of pop culture (though a very obscure part of it). The idea of centering a movie around a serial killer like Ted Bundy is to try to understand the mindset.

Genres from true crime to thrillers to horror all rely on the morbid yet natural human fascination with the macabre, and serial killers are the closest thing to real-life monsters that exist. Theodore Robert Cowell, the birth name of "The Campus Killer" himself and best known to the world as Ted Bundy, captured the darkest parts of audiences' imaginations even before he was eventually identified and apprehended. This resulted in many Ted Bundy movies, some of which were inaccurate exploitative stories while others examined this man of infamy in some interesting ways. From the worst to the best, fans can explore every Ted Bundy movie.

Related: What Happened To Ted Bundy’s Ex-Wife & Daughter

10 Bundy And The Green River Killer (2019)

  • Available to stream on Vudu and Tubi

One of the modern Ted Bundy movies released is actually not about Bundy's days as a serial killer, but about him consulting on another case. In reality, Ted Bundy was interviewed about the Green River Serial Killer when there were no leads in the case, which is actually a practice law enforcement will take, especially when convicted serial killers might be serving multiple life sentences in prison. That's the story Bundy And The Green River Killer tells. The movie received mixed reviews, having only a 3.4 out of 10 stars on IMDB and a 6% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, but a 3.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon's Prime Video.

9 Bundy: An American Icon (2008)

  • Available to stream on Roku and Tubi

Bundy: An American Icon (also known as Bundy: A Legacy of Evil ) is a horror movie directed by Michael Feifer that purports to be a biopic of "The Lady Killer" Theodore Cowell. Unfortunately for anyone looking for a fact-based affair, it follows Feifer's other serial killer movies (including movies about Ed Gein , BTK and the Boston Strangler) by caring little for the truth. It dramatizes Bundy’s life from his troubled childhood to his arrest and trial and feels like little more than exploitation of a "brand." Cowell/Bundy was played by Corin Nemec, and the movie wasn't well-received by critics, who thought it didn’t offer anything new, and it’s an often forgotten entry in the collection of movies about Ted Bundy.

8 American Boogeyman (2021)

  • Stream on Hulu

The first of two 2021 properties, Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman is written and directed by Daniel Farrands ( The Haunting of Sharon Tate ) and stars Chad Michael Murray as the title character. Like the rest of the movies based on Ted Bundy , American Boogeyman follows his crimes but through the perspective of the FBI agents assigned to the case: Kathleen McChesney (Holland Roden) and Robert Ressler (Jake Hays). It never quite manages to justify its own existence, offering nothing new to the conversation and also fictionalizing events to the point that it feels grossly unfair. Murray was considered miscast as Bundy.

7 Ted Bundy (2002)

  • Stream on Tubi and Roku

Ted Bundy was directed and co-written by Matthew Bright. The story picks up in 1974 when Bundy was a law student and began his murder sprees. The infamous killer was played by Michael Reilly Burke ( Mars Attacks! ), whose performance was pointed out as the best thing in the movie, though it was affected by the story and tone of the movie, which critics labeled as “exploitative.” That assessment is thoroughly justified: the Ted Bundy 2002 movie's commitment to bothering with the truth, again, is questionable at best, suggesting that lots of these movies have more stock in the idea of Bundy over the truth of the matter.

6 The Capture Of The Green River Killer (2008)

  • Stream on Tubi

The Capture of the Green River Killer is a two-part TV movie that focuses on the story of the Green River killer serial murders between 1982 and 1998. Just like in The Riverman , Bundy comes into play when he offers his help to the detectives working on the case. Bundy's real-life involvement in the case also helped to inspire The Silence of the Lambs as serial killer Hannibal Lecter helps FBI agent Clarice Starling. This version of Bundy is played by Buffy the Vampire Slayer 's James Marsters . It's a hard one to get hold of, but it doesn't really justify the effort. The cast is better than the material – with Tom Cavanagh in the lead role – but the screenplay was seen as the biggest problem with the film.

Related: How Netflix's Ted Bundy Documentary & Movie Are Different (& Which Is Better)

5 The Riverman (2004)

The Riverman was a Ted Bundy TV movie directed by Bill Eagles ( Beautiful Creatures ) and based on the book "The Riverman: Ted Bundy and I Hunt for the Green River Killer" by Robert D. Keppel and William J. Birnes. It follows criminology professor Robert D. Keppel who is offered help by Bundy to profile a serial killer, later dubbed “The Riverman”. Although Bundy wasn’t of much help, he did shed some light on his own pathology. Bundy was played by Cary Elwes, known for his roles in The Princess Bride , Saw (also inspired by a true story) , and Stranger Things . This one's a little like a prototype for 2021's far superior No Man Of God , in that it follows the profiler rather than Bundy and allows the audience to see Bundy and his crimes through his eyes. There's also an element of Keppel being dragged in a little too much, which promises more interest than it delivers.

4 The Stranger Beside Me (2003)

The Stranger Beside Me is a made-for-TV movie based on the book of the same name by Ann Rule, who worked with Bundy before his murders and even considered him her friend. In this version, Bundy was played by Billy Campbell, and Barbara Hershey played Rule. Buoyed by two great central performances, it's a strong addition and easily one of the best made-for-TV true crime efforts of the Bundy catalog. It also makes the choice to stay away from Bundy's crimes consciously and gives Ann Rule a rare female voice in this otherwise male perspective-dominated space.

3 The Deliberate Stranger (1986)

  • No streaming options available

The Deliberate Stranger is a TV movie based on the book Bundy: The Deliberate Stranger by reporter Richard W. Larsen, published in 1980. The movie skips Bundy’s childhood and first murders and begins with the murder of Georgann Hawkins, later following Bundy's crimes in Washington, Utah, Colorado, and Florida. Bundy was played by Mark Harmon, best known for playing SSA Leroy Jethro Gibbs in NCIS , and Bundy's lawyer Polly Nelson called the movie "stunningly accurate" and praised Harmon's performance. As it was initially a two-part miniseries, it clocks in at over three hours, but it never outstays its welcome and Harmon is very good as the charming law student with a terrible secret.

2 Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile (2019)

  • Stream on Netflix

Zac Efron plays Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. The movie is a crime drama directed by Joe Berlinger, and based on the book The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy by Elizabeth Kendall, Bundy’s former girlfriend. The title of the movie is a reference to judge Edward Cowart’s (played by John Malkovich) remarks on Bundy’s crimes while sentencing him to death.

Related: Extremely Wicked True Story - What The Ted Bundy Movie Changes (& Cuts)

The story begins in 1969, when Bundy and Elizabeth met, and is told through her perspective, covering his journey all the way to his imprisonment. Somewhat rightly accused of exploitation of the material - and the victims, without a thought to giving them a voice - there's a little too much appreciation for the cult of Bundy without a great deal of showing him for what he really was.

1 No Man Of God (2021)

  • Stream on AMC+

The most recent Ted Bundy movie highlights a chilling performance from Luke Kirby as No Man of God 's Bundy . It's directed by Amber Sealey and written by C. Robert Cargill ( Sinister , Doctor Strange ). The movie is based on real-life transcripts selected from the conversations between Bundy and FBI analyst Bill Hagmaier (played by Elijah Wood) that happened between 1984 and 1989.

Also starring are Robert Patrick and Aleksa Palladino in supporting roles, but this is very much a two-man affair, with narrative presence for other perspectives more than real characters. It's intriguing without being exploitative and offers a genuinely clever comment on both Bundy's dark "appeal" and the irresponsible way that has been monetized without considering a space for female or specifically victimized voices in telling the tale. Both Kirby and Wood are great, and it's easily the best of the bunch.

Ted Bundy Is One Of The Most Prolific Serial Killers In History

Few serial killers have inspired more movies , TV shows, documentaries, books, or other media than Ted Bundy, whose crimes took place in the US in the 1970s (and quite possibly earlier). Catching Theodore Cowell wasn’t easy, as he denied all his crimes for decades and escaped from the authorities a couple of times, traveling to other states to continue his murder spree. He also gave his victims a variety of aliases, including Kenneth Misner and Chris Hagen, so those who escaped gave the Police incorrect information.

RELATED: Why Hollywood Is Obsessed With Ted Bundy Movies

Bundy was jailed in Utah in 1975 for aggravated kidnapping and attempted criminal assault, which unchained a series of suspicions for more serious crimes. The "Love Bite Serial Killer," as some media outlets also referred to him, was recaptured in 1979, and he was already America’s most famous serial killer by that point. That same year he was sentenced to death for his crimes, though it's believed that not all his victims have been found, and he didn’t confess to all the murders he committed.

Just days before his execution, Bundy confessed to 30 murders during a series of interviews with Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth, which were the basis for Netflix's Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes docuseries as well as Elijah Wood's No Man Of God . Bundy died in the electric chair in January 1989, and his story has since been adapted to multiple types of media. The strange fascination over his case hasn’t ceased.

Why There Are So Many Ted Bundy Movies

Serial killers have inspired fiction since the days of Jack the Ripper , but there is a handful over whom Hollywood and audiences obsess disproportionately, and Bundy is among them despite not being the most prolific killer in US history – Bundy is the third most active, with 25 confirmed murders and many more suspected but not proven. Yet there are far more movies about him than Samuel Little, who is still alive today and has confessed to the murder of over 93 women, or Gary Ridgeway, the Green River Killer who killed 49 people.

The Ted Bundy obsession Hollywood has can be explained. Like John Wayne Gacy and Ed Gein, Bundy's crimes had a disturbing horror movie-like element that went beyond simple murder. John Wayne Gacy was the killer clown who inspired IT , and Ed Gein made his victims into furniture and clothing – both disturbing details that nonetheless pique curiosity. As well as killing possibly as many as 100+ women (the true number will sadly never be found), Bundy was a rapist and necrophile. His crimes were truly disgusting, and as much as their depravity makes them harrowing to consider, it makes them equally compelling fodder for filmmakers wanting to create a monster movie about one from real life.

Related: The True Story That Inspired Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The other reason Bundy is notably popular in movies is that he had, for lack of a better term, the Dracula factor. Theodore Robert Bundy was, by all accounts, an incredibly attractive man, which made it easy for him to lure his female victims. He'd sometimes also pretend to have an impairment to more easily gain their trust, something else that inspired The Silence of the Lambs as Buffalo Bill uses a similar poly. It shows Bundy was a master manipulator, coming across as suave and sophisticated.

His personality was a huge juxtaposition to the utterly inhuman ferocity of his acts, which is in part why it took so long to pin him to the murders, and this Jekyll-and-Hyde dissonance further breeds easily exploitable audience curiosity. He is partly responsible for the rejection of the old idea of serial killers as ugly societal rejects. As unjust as it is, Ted Bundy has become a celebrity serial killer, and there will likely be many more movies made about him.

Extremely Wicked: How Accurate Was Zac Efron's Ted Bundy Biopic?

zodiac killer movie review ted bundy

True crime is one of the hottest genres in media today. All manner of podcasts, TV shows, movies, books, and more are being created faster than Buffalo Bill could lower a bucket into a hole. Netflix has been especially keen to pump out serial killer content, with shows like Mindhunter and documentaries like Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes hitting the service. The latter preceded a biopic about Ted Bundy called Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile , which starred Zac Efron as the serial killer.

With all the true crime stories being turned into movies, it’s important to take a look at them and determine how accurate the films are. So, how accurate is Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile ? Well, it is actually pretty accurate, despite the criticism it has faced for various other reasons .

Most of the criticism of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile , comes down to the way the story was told . Critics say that it’s too soft on Ted Bundy and too much of a love story. It kind of makes Bundy into an anti-hero when in reality there was nothing redeeming about him. He was, as the judge at his sentencing called him and the producers named the film from, "extremely wicked, shockingly evil and vile."

While it is true the movie doesn’t explicitly show his gruesome murders or his ability to lure young women into his car and later brutally murder them, it is a fairly accurate account of his longtime romantic relationship with Elizabeth Kloepfer, played by Lily Collins. The movie is based on her out-of-print memoir published in 1981, soon after Ted Bundy went to jail.

Lily Collins and the rest of the cast, especially Zac Efron , deserve high praise for their performances. Whatever flaws there are in the approach to Bundy and Collins’ lives in the movie, the acting performances are excellent.

So, putting aside the approach to the story and the angle taken by director Joe Berlinger, how accurate is the movie, factually? Let’s take a look.

Zac Efron Was The Right Choice To Play Ted Bundy

Yes, not only did Zac Efron do a wonderful job playing the creep, he also fits the character. Ted Bundy was a very good looking man, like Efron. Part of the shock of Bundy murders and subsequent trials was that Bundy was a handsome, intelligent, and otherwise “normal” member of society. He was as far from the serial killer stereotype as you could get at the time.

Bundy was not a creepy birthday party clown like John Wayne Gacy, or a spooky shadow like the Zodiac Killer , or as bizarre as Charles Manson . Those were the serial killer archetypes at the time and Ted Bundy didn’t fit into any of those boxes, which made him that much scarier and was a big reason he gained so much notoriety. It also may be why he still commands attention today.

Elizabeth Kloepfer Was Far More Suspicious Of Bundy In Real Life

In the film, Kloepfer calling the police in Seattle early one when she became concerned that Ted Bundy might be the “Ted” that the police were looking for in connection to the Lake Sammamish murders. Where the film goes a little astray is that Elizabeth Kloepfer remained suspicious and believed he was the serial killer that he was being accused of being.

In Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile , Kloepfer seems to waffle back and forth between trusting and believing Ted Bundy and not trusting or believing him. In her memoirs, she discusses coping with the truth by drowning the thoughts out with heavy drinking. Her alcoholism is only a minor bit in the movie, when in reality, it consumed her throughout her time with the serial killer and during all of his trials.

Ted Bundy Never Outright Admitted His Guilt To Liz

That last conversation between Elizabeth Kloepfer and Ted Bundy in the movie is, by far, the biggest artistic license taken by Joe Berlinger. It didn’t go down like that at all. Bundy never wrote “hacksaw” on the glass while in the visiting room with Kloepfer, nor did he directly admit his guilt during their last conversation. She begged him to admit it, but he refused. Shortly after, he was executed in the electric chair. Berlinger told USAToday ,

…in this era of #MeToo accountability we wanted our female character to end the movie in a strong moment of forcing him to admit what he did. The movie is all about accountability.

So, not exactly true to the story, but the actual conversation, which Kloepfer recounted in her memoir, was close enough in Berlinger’s mind to make the artistic jump.

Ted Bundy Did Defend Himself In Court

The courtroom scenes are very accurate to the true story, with much of dialog coming straight from the transcripts. Ted Bundy was a former law student and he was very smart. The quote from Judge Edward Cowart, played by John Malkovich in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, did actually come from what he said at Bundy's sentencing. Take a look.

You're a bright young man. You'd have made a good lawyer and I would have loved to have you practice in front of me, but you went another way, partner. I don't feel any animosity toward you. I want you to know that.

Of course, he went on to say...

The court finds that both of these killings were indeed heinous, atrocious and cruel. And that they were extremely wicked, shockingly evil, vile and the product of a design to inflict a high degree of pain and utter indifference to human life.

... as he sent Ted Bundy to the chair.

Ted Bundy Did Propose To Carole Ann Boone In Court

But it wasn’t exactly how it was portrayed in the movie. In another standard case of artistic license, Berlinger fudged this one a little bit.

Ted Bundy actually had two trials in Florida. The first, the real media circus of a trial that took place in 1979, is the one portrayed in the movie. The second one happened about six months later, in early 1980. It was at this second trial that Bundy took advantage of that obscure Florida law that allowed him to legally marry Carole Ann Boone, played in the movie by Kaya Scodelario, right there on the spot.

So, Joe Berlinger combined that part of the second trial into the first trial because it was an important part of the story, but it didn’t warrant adding the whole second trial just for that moment. Although, interestingly, technically it was the death sentence in the second trial that was carried out on Ted Bundy on January 24th, 1989.

Much of the rest of the movie is historically accurate. Ted Bundy and Liz Kloepfer did meet in a bar. Bundy did escape the courthouse in Colorado by jumping from the window. He did escape prison a second time by cutting a hole in his cell and slipping through. He did lure women into his creepy VW Beetle by faking an injury. The trial was a complete and total media circus, really the first of its kind to by widely televised. And Bundy and Carole Ann Boone really did conceive a child while he was locked up after his convictions.

Almost 40 years since he first came into the public eye, Ted Bundy continues to fascinate and terrify the public. His story is so well known that the decision to take a slightly less direct angle at the crimes was an interesting one by director Berlinger and while it doesn’t completely work in showing how much of monster Bundy really was, it is extremely historically accurate and it deserves much credit for that.

zodiac killer movie review ted bundy


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Hugh Scott is the Syndication Editor for CinemaBlend. Before CinemaBlend, he was the managing editor for Suggest.com and Gossipcop.com, covering celebrity news and debunking false gossip. He has been in the publishing industry for almost two decades, covering pop culture – movies and TV shows, especially – with a keen interest and love for Gen X culture, the older influences on it, and what it has since inspired. He graduated from Boston University with a degree in Political Science but cured himself of the desire to be a politician almost immediately after graduation.

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'Myth of the Zodiac' Trailer Begs the Question: Did the Killer Really Exist? [Exclusive]

Peacock's latest docuseries poses an astonishing theory on July 11.

From Jeffrey Dahmer to Ted Bundy , Ed Gein , and Randy Kraft , the United States has unfortunately come to know more than its fair share of serial killers over the last century. But, while all the aforementioned murderers were caught, there’s one case that will forever haunt the public. Known only as the Zodiac Killer, the person behind the mask of five slayings (that we know of) in the San Francisco Bay Area during 1968 and 1969 has never been apprehended - at least not for the murders.

A staple in true crime culture, the story of the mysterious phantom who stalked the streets, hillsides, and lakes of San Francisco has been the center of many Hollywood productions like the Jake Gyllenhaal , Mark Ruffalo , Brian Cox , and Robert Downey Jr. 2007 David Fincher -helmed thriller, Zodiac . And, while movies, books, and podcasts have set out to find the truth, the killer’s name is yet to be revealed. Now, one Zodiac enthusiast is hoping to crack the case by asking a question that no other person has brought forward - did the killer even exist?

Peacock’s latest two-part true crime docuseries, Myth of the Zodiac Killer , will jump into one man’s strong belief that the notorious slayer was merely a piece of American folklore. A new trailer released ahead of the series’ arrival sheds light on this bizarre theory as Thomas Henry Horan , an investigative journalist and the author of The Myth of the Zodiac Killer: A Literary Investigation by Thomas Henry Horan , and filmmaker Andrew Nock team up to get to the bottom of the riddle. Each taking different stances, with Nock staunchly standing by the one-killer theory and Horan testing his no-killer theory, the trailer sees the two men diving head first into the case . Because we know the murders took place, it’s unclear how Horan will line up his theory unless, like many others, his goal is to prove that there was more than one killer, thus solidifying that “The Zodiac” never existed.

RELATED: 10 Best Whodunits Of The 21st Century To Watch Before 'Glass Onion'

What Other True Crime Productions Does Peacock Have?

Earning a name for itself as a new home of true-crime documentaries, the network boasts an impressive lineup of interesting and well-thought-out titles. The current slate of originals includes Casey Anthony: Where the Truth Lies and John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise , as well as a slew of content from networks such as Oxygen ( Violent Minds: Killers on Tape ).

Check out the trailer for Myth of the Zodiac Killer above and immerse yourself in the hunt when the two-part docuseries lands on Peacock on July 11.

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Netflix’s Conversations With a Killer willfully participates in Ted Bundy’s 3-ring circus

The new true crime documentary series demonstrates that even after his death, Ted Bundy runs his own show.

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zodiac killer movie review ted bundy

A high number of serial killers are malignant narcissists — often the kind who suffer from delusions of grandeur. One of the implications of Netflix’s new true crime documentary series, Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes , is that its subject — one of America’s most well-known serial killers — perpetually manipulated the media and his many interviewers into feeding his glorified narrative of himself. Ironically, that’s also what Conversations With a Killer seems to be doing now.

The documentary, which was released Thursday, is a dramatization of the 2000 book Ted Bundy: Conversations With a Killer by investigative reporters Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth. It’s drawn from many hours of recorded interviews the pair conducted with Bundy during his imprisonment in the 1980s.

Using a mix of archival news footage of the investigations into Bundy’s crimes and his subsequent arrest and trials, stock footage of ’70s-era cultural detritus, and interviews, the four-part Netflix series recounts the story of the killer’s dozens of murders and assaults. In addition to incorporating Bundy’s prison interviews, the filmmakers talked to journalists, detectives, Bundy’s friends, attorneys, and even one of his survivors in an apparent effort to balance Bundy’s words about himself with broader context and insights.

Prior to his execution in 1989 at the age of 42, Bundy confessed to murdering between 30 and 37 women between 1974 and 1978; of these, 20 of his victims have been identified, along with five other survivors. The true number of his victims is unknown.

As a true crime fan, I feel decently up to speed on my Bundy knowledge. I’ve read Ann Rule’s classic memoir of her friendship with Bundy, A Stranger Beside Me . I know the basic chronology of Bundy’s crimes — his early assaults and murders beginning around 1974, his kidnapping arrest and conviction in 1976, repeated escapes from authorities, and the Chi Omega sorority murders he committed at Florida State University in 1978 that would turn him into a cultural fixture of evil.

I am familiar with the chilling physical similarities between his targets and his storied ex-girlfriend (echoes of which surfaced last year with news that the Golden State Killer had been similarly fixated on his former fiancée). I’ve even watched snippets of his jailhouse interviews over the years — enough to deduce that Bundy was the classic charming sociopath, milking the attention while ultimately revealing very little.

There are plenty of previously extant, easily accessible documentaries and footage of Ted Bundy’s recorded post-conviction interviews. So I was admittedly skeptical about what new value could be found within the new package from Netflix — even though it’s the work of true crime titan Joe Berlinger, co-director of the seminal West Memphis Three documentary trilogy Paradise Lost .

Berlinger is also directing an upcoming biopic starring Zac Efron as Bundy: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile makes its world premiere this weekend at the Sundance Film Festival , with a wider release date yet to be announced. The film’s title is taken from the judge’s description of Bundy’s crimes when sentencing him, and if you feel like it’s overselling the point, then you probably won’t get much mileage out of Conversations With a Killer . The documentary comes across, to an extent, as homework you’re supposed to do before you see Berlinger’s other Ted Bundy movie.

But despite Bundy’s notoriety, inarguably drawing lots of prurient interest, the recounting of his life story in Conversations With a Killer is a bit of a slog — and one that left me wondering, in the end, if the series is too fixated on its villain.

If you’re familiar with the story of Ted Bundy, you’ve already heard this “conversation”

It was Bundy himself who helped create and embed within the cultural consciousness so many of the archetypes we associate with the serial killer: the idea of the double life, the secret “dark side” that comes as a total shock to family and friends who’ve known someone only as an upstanding pillar of their greater community.

The placid charm that masks layers of virulent narcissism and misogynistic rage. The cat-and-mouse skill with which he’s able to evade baffled law enforcement; the combination of personal charisma and a lethal antisocial personality that allows and emboldens him to snatch his victims, often in broad daylight. The subsequent media and cultural fixation on the killer at the expense of those victims.

Because so much of this lore is already so closely associated with Bundy himself, and because there’s so much information out there about Bundy already, Conversations has its work cut out for it. True crime fans who are familiar with Bundy’s story won’t learn much. But even if you aren’t familiar, one can only endure so much voiceover narration, intoning over a litany of stock photography that Bundy seemed just like you or me, before things start to feel circular and repetitive.

There’s an entire bingo card full of documentary tropes in the first episode alone: Detectives affirm that the concept of a “serial killer” didn’t exist before the ’70s, when the post-Charles Manson era signified a growing public awareness of the class of murderer that’s always been among us. (Famous pre-’70s serial killers include Albert Fish , H.H. Holmes , and, of course, Jack the Ripper .) Conversations With a Killer makes repeated assertions that “we didn’t have the technology” — with “the technology” being everything from advanced forensics to interstate criminal databases to fax machines to the internet.

A childhood friend from Bundy’s days growing up in Tacoma, Washington, recounts that while they had a lot of fun together, Bundy was something of a misfit and “he had a temper.” You don’t say. His days as an upstanding young Republican are canvassed. Bundy himself explains that he distrusted left-wing countercultural politics and “radical socialist types” because “I just wasn’t too fond of criminal conduct and using antiwar movements as a haven for delinquents who liked to feel that they were immune to the law.”

A friend recalls that “he was the kind of guy you’d want your sister to marry.” The irony is everywhere.

At one point, Bundy’s ramblings about politics and his own talents, his experiences with women, and his own psychology play over a shifting kaleidoscope of archival and stock images, interspersed with close-ups of his photograph. The ever-advancing zoom-in on his attractive face, his agreeable smile, his perfectly open eyes, is supposed to be chilling. But sandwiched between a 2018 podcast about Bundy and Berlinger’s upcoming biopic, it mostly just seems gratuitous — the kind of self-aggrandizing focus that Bundy would have loved.

One thing that is made abundantly clear throughout the doc is that even during the years in which he was a widely publicized suspect who was awaiting/escaping/evading trial, Bundy had endless opportunities to give interviews, declaim his innocence, and laugh and joke with the lineup of mystified reporters who entered his orbit. Conversations details how irresistible the case was to the media, with its lurid details juxtaposed against the unlikely figure of Bundy himself.

Again and again, the inherent twist of Bundy’s identity — he was hot! But also a killer! He was a hot upstanding necrophiliac serial killer! — is repeated, even though this is far from new or revealing information, even though it’s the first and most well-known detail anyone knows about Ted Bundy.

Much more impactful is the moment in episode two when Carol Daronch, who survived a 1974 kidnapping attempt by Bundy, describes fighting off Bundy and recalling his “flat, lifeless eyes.” (Bundy would murder another woman, Debra Jean Kent, just hours later.) It’s her story as a survivor that stands out amid what may feel to the true crime fan like largely repetitive observations on Bundy’s life and crimes.

The documentary pays little attention to its best and most valuable resource: Bundy’s victims

Unfortunately, Daronch’s story is also an outlier; as the narrative proceeds, Bundy’s victims receive little more than a few words and a photograph. Often, two or more are listed in the same breath, usually because either their abductions or the recoveries of their bodies happened in such close proximity that they were essentially paired as one victim.

I spend a huge amount of time listening to true crime podcasts, in which hosts like Steven Pacheco of Trace Evidence , Marissa Jones of The Vanished , Nina Innsted of Already Gone , the writers of Casefile , and several others I could name routinely go out of their way to memorialize and give biographies to victims. So it felt odd to watch Conversations With a Killer and realize that I’d built up an expectation, bestowed on me by the true crime community, that Bundy’s victims would receive as much attention as possible, even in a documentary so overtly focused on the killer.

Given that so much of the information covered in the series is already well-known, a deep-dive focus on Bundy’s victims — an effort to allow their voices, their lives as they were able to live them, to balance Bundy’s voice — would arguably have set Conversations apart from the glut of true crime docs. But without that layer of rarely seen context, Conversations With a Killer feels even more superfluous.

There’s enough here to please newcomers to the Ted Bundy story — but not much more

If you don’t know much about Bundy, there’s enough to Conversations to draw interest. Especially chilling is the documentary’s glimpse at Bundy’s “kill kit,” which includes the standard criminal’s balaclava and rope — but also pantyhose and an icepick. Also interesting is the accounting of Bundy’s faithful fellow members of the LDS church, who sent him a hand-drawn card and supported him in the courtroom during his 1976 trial for Daronch’s kidnapping.

These intriguing tidbits don’t get nearly as much attention as Bundy’s narrative about himself — which, to be fair, is what the documentary promised with its “conversations” framework. And if you’ve never before encountered Bundy’s jocular portrait of himself as he discusses his crimes in the abstract, it will certainly be eye-opening.

But where Conversations With a Killer perhaps finds its firmest footing is in episode four, which features extensive archival footage of Bundy’s 1979 trial for the Chi Omega murders. Amid a flustered showing by the defense team, featuring Bundy acting as his own temperamental co-counsel, Chi Omega member Nita Neary strides in, stone-faced vengeance personified, to identify Bundy as the man who attacked five of her sorority sisters. It’s one of the few moments in the documentary when the archival footage lingers on Bundy’s targets, and as such, it’s a stark reminder of how little we’re hearing from those on the receiving end of his mania.

What’s more, if you tune in hoping for an in-depth examination of the investigative process that led to Bundy’s arrest(s), you’ll more than likely come away disappointed. This is partly due to the fact that there was very little forensic evidence for many of the murders, and partly due to the fact that Bundy benefited from haphazard and befuddled policing. But Conversations With a Killer also prefers to skate over many of the procedural elements of the chase in favor of first-person recollections of Bundy himself.

This approach would be highly effective if Berlinger and his team did more to push back against the narrative that Bundy and others have created through their first-person reflections on his crimes. But despite the sheer number of collected interviews, if anything, they largely serve to amplify Bundy in what becomes a monologue — rather than a truly polyphonic dialogue. Again and again, interviewees describe him as “special.”

At several points during the Chi Omega trial, Bundy’s antics audibly crack up the courtroom. And at his sentencing, the judge compliments his intelligence and tells him he would have made a great lawyer. “You’ve got a sense of drama, Ted,” Michaud laughs nervously in one of the jailhouse tapes. The documentary is full of these moments — unsubtle reminders that even after his arrest, Bundy continued to run his own show.

Perhaps most notably, in 2019, there’s a layer of fatigue that comes with a documentary about Ted Bundy that treats Ted Bundy like he’s news. In the era of the glorified antihero , and an overt cultural fixation with real-life villains at the expense of victims, there’s very little to be gained from Conversations With a Killer ’s straightforward, weirdly sympathetic presentation of Bundy as a uniquely special criminal.

If the intervening four decades since his final capture in 1978 have taught us anything, it’s that Bundy is the opposite of special. He’s just like any other rage-driven narcissist who channels resentment over a breakup, a failing marriage, or a lack of control over their lives into violence. Ted Bundy is John List , is Joseph James DeAngelo , is Elliot Rodger , is Chris Watts .

“I think it’s my turn [to talk] now,” Bundy insists at one point, after three episodes in which he’s talked incessantly. Just as the title promises, Conversations With a Killer lets him talk, and talk, and talk. But affording the killer this much sway over his own story, especially after all this time, feels like a cheap gambit that affirms his own inflated ego after the fact — as if years of cultural fixation, numerous film adaptations of his life, and countless biographies and profiles of him haven’t done that enough.

More interesting at this stage of the true crime game would have been an attempt to engage more deeply with some of the issues the documentary briefly raises — especially questions of how mentally competent Bundy, and other serial killers with extreme antisocial personality disorder , truly are, and how much control they really have over their actions.

Berlinger arguably could have kept much of the documentary’s archival source material, with its heavy emphasis on Bundy, while reframing the killer’s story as one about the women whose lives he cut short. Instead, he produced a perfectly serviceable Conversations that adds little to the conversation at all.

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FILM REVIEW; The Life and Violent Times Of a 1970's Serial Killer

By Dave Kehr

  • Sept. 13, 2002

As a filmmaker, Matthew Bright can't be accused of inconsistency. He made a splash at the Sundance Film Festival in 1996 with ''Freeway,'' a liberal adaptation of ''Little Red Riding Hood'' that found a teenage Reese Witherspoon grappling with a serial killer named Bob Wolfson (Kiefer Sutherland). Mr. Bright's 1999 ''Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby'' did the same for ''Hansel and Gretel,'' turning the pair of lovable tykes into a lesbian serial killer (Maria Celedonio) and her hooker sidekick (Natasha Lyonne).

Currently, Mr. Bright is offering ''Ted Bundy,'' which drops the fairy-tale premise and concentrates on serial killing, plain and simple. Mr. Bright has scaled back the deliberate campiness of his ''Freeway'' films, but ''Ted Bundy,'' based on the life of the sex killer who may have bludgeoned, raped and mutilated as many as 36 women in the 1970's, is still disturbingly superficial in its approach to the material.

Bundy, as well played by Michael Reilly Burke, is first presented as a bumbling nerd, trying to pick up women in the late hippie era of the early 1970's dressed in a three-piece seersucker suit. He's trying to make it through a psychology major at the University of Washington but is failing miserably. His only real success is his relationship with Lee (Boti Ann Bliss), a figure based on Bundy's real-life fiancée, Meg Anders. Lee has a young daughter who adores her potential stepfather, allowing Mr. Bright to contrast Bundy's playfulness and lovingness with his little family with the strikingly different attitudes he displays toward the other women in his life.

When ''Ted Bundy,'' which opens today in Manhattan, gets down to business, it gets down pretty far. The victims are an endless and largely anonymous string of young women, lured from campuses in Washington, Utah and Oregon. Bundy uses his fumbling charm to entice his victims into his canary yellow Volkswagen beetle, where he summarily beats them into unconsciousness and has his way with them, with comically little concern for passers-by.

One of the film's biggest laughs is generated by the sight of Bundy, in the middle of the night, carrying a body half-wrapped in a throw rug out to his car. He pitches the corpse right in, unnoticed by a group of college students who are slowly moseying by the crime scene. The gory special effects are by Tom Savini, the cult make-up artist whose career goes back to ''Dawn of the Dead'' in 1977.

Apart from some fleeting dialogue that covers Bundy's unhappy childhood -- he grew up believing that his mother was his sister -- Mr. Bright doesn't waste too much time on psychological explanations, or even on simple curiosity. Like Anthony Hopkins's Hannibal Lecter, Bundy is presented as a sympathetic monster whose lack of remorse enables him to act out the impulses that -- or so the theory goes, at least -- the rest of us are too cowardly and conventional to own up to. He's pure id, running loose in a society that is all repressive superego. And we're supposed to have a sneaky admiration for him.

That is probably not an attitude that would be shared by the women he killed nor by their families and friends, which may explain why no real names, apart from Bundy's, are used in the film.

At heart, Mr. Bright seems to be a frustrated, humorless John Waters, a filmmaker with his own addiction to serial killers (as in ''Serial Mom'' from 1994) but with a greater sense of style and the moral abstraction that stylization can bring. As ''Ted Bundy'' plods from one graphically filmed killing to the next, it displays little more stylistic flair than a Sears catalog.

''Ted Bundy'' is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) for graphic violence, unorthodox sexual practices and strong language.

Directed by Matthew Bright; written by Stephen Johnston and Mr. Bright; director of photography, Sonja Rom; edited by Paul Heiman; music by Kennard Ramsey; production designer, Chris Anthony Miller; produced by Hamish McAlpine and Michael Muscal; released by Tartan Films and Overseas Filmgroup. At the Cinema Village, 22 East 12th Street, Greenwich Village. Running time: 99 minutes. This film is rated R.

WITH: Michael Reilly Burke (Ted Bundy), Boti Ann Bliss (Lee), Julianna McCarthy (Professor), Steffani Brass (Julie), Tricia Dickson (Vincennes) and Meadow Sisto (Welch).

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The title of Joe Berlinger's "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile" comes from the famous post-sentencing remarks of Judge Edward Cowart to Ted Bundy, America's most notorious (to this day) serial killer. Cowart called the killings "extremely wicked, shockingly evil, vile and the product of a design to inflict a high degree of pain and utter indifference to human life." What is so interesting about Berlinger's film is how strongly it resists showing Ted as "wicked" or "evil." Bundy is never shown committing a crime. We are left instead with a terrifying void, the void of Bundy himself, a blank space where a human being should be. Knowing the details of Bundy's life—his shame at being born out of wedlock, for example—only takes us so far. Lots of people are born out of wedlock. Only one became Ted Bundy. Refusing to explain Ted Bundy is the strongest possible choice Berlinger could have made because it destabilizes reality. The film itself gaslights us, and this is where Berlinger and Zac Efron —an inspired choice—are powerful co-creators. 

Loosely based on  The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy , the memoir of Bundy's long-time girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer (played here by Lily Collins ), "Extremely Wicked" starts in Elizabeth's point of view. A single mother, holding down a secretarial job, Liz expresses to a friend her insecurities about finding a man. What man wants a woman with a kid? A predator like Ted Bundy is quick to sniff out insecure women like Liz. She meets him at a bar, and he charms her. Easily. She brings him home. They don't have sex. The next morning, she finds him in the kitchen with her baby daughter, and he's making breakfast, wearing a yellow apron. Liz can't believe it. Is this guy too good to be true?

How something happens is more important than what happens, particularly in a story where the details are well-known. "Extremely Wicked" mixes Liz's point of view with Bundy's, but there are some crucial differences in approach. Berlinger puts us inside Liz's growing terror that she's been living with the guy who maybe did the horrible things she's seeing on the news. Their happy relationship, shown in home movie footage, is intercut with extant local news reports of girls gone missing in the area, girls showing up dead, two brazen abductions in broad daylight. The police sketch released to the public looks kind of like her boyfriend, but Liz can't be sure. Berlinger follows Bundy, too, but in the Bundy sequences, we only see his outer behavior, what he does . This captures Bundy's opaque quality, the sense you get of a camouflage hiding his true nature. Bundy insists—with increasing aggravation—that he has been wrongly accused. 

A lesser film would have intercut the happy home scenes with scenes of Bundy killing college co-eds, just to remind us of Bundy's evil. A lesser film would have provided flashbacks to his childhood, in an attempt to explain why. Instead, we are banished from his secret life, just like Liz is banished from it. We see him as she sees him, and he is a dazzlingly disorienting figure. This is what Efron taps into; this is what Efron understands. 

Efron became a child star when a generation of girls lost their minds over "High School Musical." (Teenage girls are often the first to recognize who will be the Next Big Thing, and their screams of ecstasy are ignored or mocked. But teenage girls picked out Elvis Presley , they picked out Sinatra, they picked out Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson . Maybe, instead of belittling teenage girls' frenzies, we should follow the sound to see what the fuss is about.) Efron's transition from teen idol to adult actor has not always been smooth. His performance in the Seth Rogen comedy "Neighbors" had strangely deep stirrings, and critics took note. He was exhilarating in " The Greatest Showman ," because he got to sing and dance. (Classic Hollywood would not have been confused about what to do with Efron.) 

As Ted Bundy, Efron gets to use his natural assets—his face, his body, his charisma—and he gets to use them full-bore. Often really beautiful actors feel the need to "ugly" themselves up in order to be taken seriously. Efron so far has resisted. He has old-school movie star wattage and an ability to project his essence through the screen. Using his animal charm in service of Ted Bundy is so disturbing, but it works in subtextual ways, providing the "missing piece" when people ask why and how Bundy could have happened. It's hard to be as charming as Efron is. Try it and see for yourself. Efron doesn't telegraph to the audience Bundy's sinister motives, he does not distance himself from Bundy's charming modus operandi. His smokescreen is impenetrable. There are moments when Efron looks so much like Bundy (especially with the beard), it is truly eerie, but it's more than just an outer transformation. Occasionally, there is a brief glimpse on his face of what Bundy's victims probably saw in their final moments. But Efron is in charge of when and how we get to see it. It deserves to be called a thrilling performance.

Kaya Scodelario plays Carole Ann Boone, Bundy's girlfriend during his imprisonment in Florida. Recently, the news broke that Christopher Watts, who killed his pregnant wife and two children in 2018, was being bombarded by love letters from women around the country. It's a bafflingly common phenomenon, and Scodelario, in a very intelligent performance, suggests why. If there's a void in Bundy, there's a void in Carole too. Liz's descent into alcoholism is handled well by Collins, as is the intervention of a co-worker, played by Haley Joel Osment . John Malkovich rules the roost as Judge Cowart, making Cowart's famous words bristle with real ethical loathing. The courtroom scenes lack some of the dizzying charge of other sequences, maybe because it's a re-creation of well-known footage (the entire trial was televised, a first of its kind). 

Ted Bundy was executed in Florida on January 24, 1989, making this year the 30th anniversary of his death. Similar to the glut of Manson movies this year marking the 50th anniversary of the Tate-LaBianca killings, Bundy is suddenly everywhere. In January, "Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes" dropped on Netflix, a four-part documentary also directed by Berlinger, featuring Bundy's 1980 tape-recorded conversations with two journalists while on death row. Many seemed disturbed at the focus on Bundy's looks, as though mentioning his handsomeness was akin to endorsing his diabolical crimes. A month or so later, the first trailer for "Extremely Wicked" dropped, and the online reaction was negative. According to its critics, the trailer glorified Bundy, it glorified Efron's cuteness. What was fascinating about all of this, and why I'm mentioning it, was that these conversations were basically replicating the media firestorm back in the 1970s, when the horror of Ted Bundy's killing spree became known. The focus on his looks struck many as unseemly back then, too. Women showed up in court for his trial giggling like they were at a Stones concert. People were horrified. Here it all was, playing out again in 2019.

There will always be those who want art to declare its intentions with neon signs pointing down like "This is bad. Don't do this." "Extremely Wicked" rightly resists such declarations and it refuses to offer explanations. You don't ask why a tornado or a tsunami is destructive. You don't dig into a grizzly bear's past to understand why it attacks. You just know these things are dangerous and you need to avoid them. If you want to understand why Ted Bundy got away with what he did for as long as he did, watch Efron flirt with Collins in the scene where the characters first meet. Look for signs of Bundy's malevolence. Squint for evidence of his evil. You won't find it. Neither did Liz. That’s why it’s terrifying. 

Sheila O'Malley

Sheila O'Malley

Sheila O'Malley received a BFA in Theatre from the University of Rhode Island and a Master's in Acting from the Actors Studio MFA Program. Read her answers to our Movie Love Questionnaire here .

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Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile movie poster

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019)

Rated R for disturbing/violent content, some sexuality, nudity and language.

108 minutes

Zac Efron as Ted Bundy

Lily Collins as Elizabeth Kloepfer / Liz Kendall

John Malkovich as Judge Edward Cowart

Kaya Scodelario as Carole Ann Boone

Jeffrey Donovan as John O'Connell

Angela Sarafyan as Joanna

Jim Parsons as Larry Simpson

Dylan Baker as David Yokum

James Hetfield as Officer Bob Hayward

Haley Joel Osment as Jerry

  • Joe Berlinger

Writer (based on the book: "The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy" by)

  • Elizabeth Kendall
  • Michael Werwie


  • Brandon Trost
  • Josh Schaeffer
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  • Dennis Smith

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Scott A. Bonn Ph.D.

Serial Killers

Examining serial killer ted bundy, a classic power/control killer.

Posted December 30, 2019 | Reviewed by Lybi Ma

Salt Lake County (Utah) Sheriff's Department

Ted Bundy is perhaps the most infamous and oddly popular serial killer of all time. Millions of people are still fascinated by Bundy thirty years after his death by execution. This is due in no small part to the Conversations with a Killer: The Bundy Tapes documentary and the fictionalized Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile feature film about Bundy both on Netflix.

Bundy was a cunning and charming psychopath who kidnapped, raped, and murdered more than 30 women in seven states between 1974 and 1978. He would typically approach his victims in public places, feigning injury or disability, or impersonating an authority figure, before overpowering and assaulting them in secluded locations. He sometimes revisited his victims, grooming and performing sexual acts with their decomposing corpses until putrefaction and destruction by wild animals made any further contact impossible.

A cool and unemotional demeanor combined with keen intellect and charming personality makes a psychopathic killer like Bundy a very effective predator. He lacked interpersonal empathy and was unable to feel pity or remorse. He did not value human life or care about the consequences of his crimes. He was callous, indifferent, and extremely brutal in his interactions with his victims.

In terms of classification, Bundy was a so-called power/control serial killer. The primary motivation of such a killer is to dominate his victims. Bundy enjoyed torturing his prey and found it sexually arousing, but it was the act of murder that was his most satisfying and final expression of power and control over his victims.

Bundy was patient and he normally killed his victims slowly to prolong his own sadistic pleasure. Such behavior is empowering because Bundy got to decide when, how, and under what circumstances his victims would die.

Bundy sexually assaulted his victims but it was not motivated by lust. Instead, rape was another means of dominating and controlling his victims. Also, Bundy did not lose interest in his victims after they were dead. Sometimes, he would return to have sex with the decomposing corpse of a victim long after the murder to perpetuate his domination and control of the deceased.

Because necrophilia totally eliminates the possibility of unwanted rejection, a power/control killer like Bundy can return to violate the victim whenever he pleases. This afforded the psychopathic Bundy with a tremendous sense of empowerment while avoiding the disturbing prospect of rejection and disappointment by a living person.

Driven by obsessive homicidal fantasies, Bundy was compelled to murder repeatedly to satisfy his terrible desires. However, the brutal and messy reality of murder never completely fulfilled the promise of Bundy’s fantasy. In fact, the aftermath of murder usually resulted in an emotional letdown for him, yet the fantasy did not go away because it was too deeply ingrained in his mind and psyche.

Ted Bundy observed, “The fantasy that accompanies and generates the anticipation that precedes the crime is always more stimulating than the immediate aftermath of the crime itself.” When a serial killer like Bundy is disappointed by a failure to experience his ultimate fantasy in real life exactly the way he envisioned it in his mind, he will continue to kill in an attempt to achieve the ideal fantasy. Such is the obsessive, compulsive and cyclical nature of serial murder.

Bundy kept souvenirs or trophies from his crimes which served to sustain and refuel his violent and sexual fantasies . When Ted Bundy was asked why he took Polaroid photos of his victims he said, “When you work hard to do something right, you don’t want to forget it.”

The former FBI profiler John Douglas has said that keeping mementos from a victim such as a lock of hair, jewelry, ID card or a newspaper clipping of the crime helped to prolong and even nourish Bundy’s secret fantasy. In between his murders and while targeting future victims, Bundy would often take out his trophies to help him relive his past murders through fantasy. Trophies helped the prolific killer to recall each one of his many victims.

zodiac killer movie review ted bundy

Bundy would sometimes give his trophies such as items of jewelry to a female friend or acquaintance. The recipient might be someone who was causing him psychological pain at the time the trophy was acquired. Like a cat that catches a mouse and gives the special item to its owner, Bundy liked to take a trophy home and present it to a significant other.

In particular, Bundy would give an item of jewelry to a woman in his life and say, “Look at what I found on the street. I want you to have it.” When Bundy later saw the trophy being worn by his female friend, it became part of his secret game. He would look at her wearing it and fantasize about the victim he raped and murdered to acquire it. Bundy said that in such moments he would think to himself with much delight, “If she only knew that the necklace she is wearing came from someone I murdered.”

After being arrested in Colorado in 1975, Bundy engineered two dramatic jail escapes and committed further assaults, including three murders, before his ultimate recapture in Florida in 1978. Bundy was executed in the electric chair at Florida State Prison on January 24, 1989.

His unique combination of charm, good looks, keen intellect, need to dominate and cold-blooded, psychopathic personality made Bundy a prolific serial killer—almost a perfect killing machine—who continues to fascinate and perplex us to this very day.

Scott A. Bonn Ph.D.

Scott Bonn, Ph.D., is a criminologist, TV news commentator, and best-selling author of Why We Love Serial Killers: The Curious Appeal of the World's Savage Murderers.

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Zodiac Review


18 May 2007

158 minutes

Jack The Ripper is remembered 120 years after he put down the knife for two reasons: a) someone (almost certainly not him) wrote taunting letters in red ink to the media and the police signed with the catchy ‘trade-name’; and b) he was never caught and cannot definitively be identified. The Metropolitan Police may not be working the case, but the Whitechapel Murders of 1888 are still open, and therefore the Ripper might as well still be at large and dangerous. Because the mystery remains unsolved, he is still frightening. How much more frightening, then, is San Francisco’s Zodiac Killer — who took great pains (including swatches of a victim’s bloody shirt) to prove that he wrote his own letters to the press, has also eluded the police for decades since his first crimes, and might conceivably still be alive?

Part of the modern-day ritual necessary for taking on board any horror, from the average killing spree to the 9/11 attacks, is to get the facts of any case straight in a succession of chronicles — paperback true-crime bestsellers, couple of TV movies, and (eventually) a more considered cinema film. With Zodiac, this pattern is frustrated — we have the books and the movies, but there are crucial gaps in the intricate and exhaustive tapestry of hard evidence. Robert Graysmith, the doodler and puzzle addict who picked up the case when more official investigators had walked away, is convinced he knows who the killer was, and David Fincher’s film adaptation of Graysmith’s two books on the case eventually comes near to the same conclusion. However, there’s really no way (short of the silly detours into fantasy that afflict most Jack The Ripper movies) of providing the ‘closure’ demanded of Hollywood films by audiences, development executives and screenwriting guru Robert McKee. Therefore, Zodiac was fated from its inception to be an uncomfortable experience, a whodunnit with the last few pages torn out, a film biography of a faceless man.

Even something as incendiary as Spike Lee’s Summer Of Sam or as disreputable as the endless schlock biopics of Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy are able to deliver approximately happy endings — they caught the bastards! In the two-and-a-half-hour haul of Zodiac, we see all the certainties of the serial killer genre shredded. David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo), the bow-tie-wearing cop on the case, is a model of West Coast cool whose manner of wearing a gun-holster was copied by Steve McQueen in Bullitt. If this were a conventional movie, he would catch the killer — but Fincher shows the confident supercop become a crotchety, tired, greying figure, quietly bereft when his longtime partner (Anthony Edwards) transfers to something nine-to-five like fraud. In a crucial sequence, Toschi attends a special premiere of Dirty Harry — which fantasised a shoot-out finale to kill off a villain modelled on Zodiac, who actually tries to carry out the schoolbus attack the real murderer merely threatened — and walks out in disgust, muttering, “Whatever happened to ‘due process’?” Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) comes on like that epitome of 1970s radical chic cool, the underground journalist with a mainstream outlet, making brilliant leaps around the befuddled authorities and going after the Zodiac like Woodward and Bernstein went after Nixon. He ends up drinking himself out of a job and hiding out on a boathouse, still paranoid that the killer will come after him.

Though Ruffalo, Edwards and Downey Jr. are outstanding in their various crash-and-burn approaches to the case, the film is built around Jake Gyllenhaal’s Graysmith, a boyish outsider who makes a few connections no-one else does and later devotes his whole life to a private crusade, to the extent of roping in his preteen kids as research assistants. Gyllenhaal is excellent, but suffers through a few too many scenes with poor Chloë Sevigny — who gets stuck with the traditionally annoying Teri Garr-in-Close Encounters role as a wife who nags her husband about spending too much time on the business we’re interested in. As always, it’s impossible not to sympathise with the character — but audiences also wish she’d shut up and let Graysmith get on with tracking down that last stray witness and joining the dots no-one else has bothered with.

It’s a truism that serial killers are media creations, but Zodiac — who may have taken his name and symbol from a watch advert, was perhaps inspired by the 1932 movie The Most Dangerous Game, and wanted a lawyer who had guest-starred in a Star Trek episode to represent him — remains a phantom of the tube and newsprint. Murderers who are caught get shown up as pathetic human beings rather than Lecter-like masterminds, but Zodiac was either clever or lucky, and remains a phantom. Fincher offers us his creepy, misspelled letters in voice-over and brings a hooded form on for one of the killings, but the film’s most unsettling moments come when the possible Zodiacs are around: convicted paedophile Arthur Leigh Allen (John Carroll Lynch) or repertory cinema programmer Bob Vaughn (Charles Fleischer). As in Seven and Fight Club, Fincher boasts an unparalleled ability to present ostensibly friendly, deeply twisted people credibly — one of Zodiac’s few melodramatic moments, as Vaughn spooks Graysmith so much he flees the suspect’s house, works entirely because of the unnerving performances.

While this isn’t as straightforward as Panic Room, Fincher’s previous film, it lacks the highly wrought style of Seven and Fight Club — and the few holdovers from his earlier method (like the frequent California downpours which strike whenever the characters aren’t depressed enough) don’t quite match the less-showy All The President’s Men-like docudrama manner used here. Whole stretches are merely conventional, with hits of the ’70s on the soundtrack to counterpoint the killings and cop-shop or newsroom scenes that could have come from a TV show of the time, like The Streets Of San Francisco or Lou Grant. Wonderfully acted as it is, there’s still a sense that Fincher — who is evidently as hung up on Zodiac as James Cameron was on Titanic — is working a notch or two below what he is capable of. Screenwriter James Vanderbilt’s CV includes Darkness Falls, Basic and Welcome To The Jungle, and his draft really could have done with a brush-up from some less pragmatic talent to make this as deep and affecting as it is long and brilliantly detailed.

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True Crime Magazine

A GRAPHIC Look Back at Zodiac Killer’s Reign of Terror

Zodiac Killer Crime Scene

The Zodiac killer is one of the most elusive and unusual serial killers in American history.

Zodiac Killer Crime Scene

Known for his bizarre, rambling handwritten letters, the Zodiac sent baffling ciphers, quoted musical lyrics, taunted police, and threatened to shoot school children.

Zodiac Killer Crime Scene

Unlike most serial killers, the Zodiac called police to report his crimes and wore a hooded costumer featuring his chosen symbol, the crossed circle.

Zodiac Killer Crime Scene

The Zodiac wounded two people and killed at least five others during the period between December 1968 and October 1969.

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Netflix's Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes Review

Ted bundy's life, in his own words..

Jesse Schedeen Avatar

Netflix Spotlight: February 2019

zodiac killer movie review ted bundy

Netflix’s latest true crime documentary provides a comprehensive look at the life and crimes of Ted Bundy. However, despite the addition of audio interviews recorded with Bundy himself, the series fails to reveal much about the infamous criminal that hasn’t already been covered elsewhere. The show focuses too much energy on providing a linear, straightforward account of Bundy’s life without saying enough about what made Bundy tick and why the public became so fascinated by his crimes.

In This Article

Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes

Netflix's Ted Bundy Doc Retreads Familiar Ground

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Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (Netflix) - True Story

Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (Netflix) Movie Poster

It's been over 30 years since “America’s most notorious” serial killer was executed by electric chair, yet here we are with two new offerings from director Joe Berlinger:  Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile a biographical feature film, and  Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes , a documentary mini-series. So what makes Ted Bundy such an interesting figure for so many?

America has been home to many notorious serial killers, including the likes of Gary Ridgway (Green River Killer), Jeffrey Dahmer (The Milwaukee Cannibal), Ed Gein (The Butcher of Plainfield), Dennis Rader (BTK Strangler), and the Zodiac Killer. Many have body counts that far surpass Bundy’s, with some going on to inspire their own films and fictional characters, but Bundy remains a unique figure even amongst this group of deplorable characters. How so, you may ask? Well, for many years leading up to his execution there were many who doubted Bundy had ever committed those crimes, despite mounting evidence.

Berlinger’s feature film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile takes a look at how that doubt manifested in someone close to him. The film's approach comes from telling the story from the perspective of Ted Bundy’s (played by Zac Efron) longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer (played by Lily Collins), named Liz Kendall in the film.

The course of the film shows how she remained in a relationship for years with Bundy despite the mounting evidence against him. That the trailer suggests she had doubts about his guilt even when he was incarcerated speaks to the depths of just how unbelievable the disconnect was for people like Liz in their view of Bundy.

It should be noted that when word of the murders in the state of Washington really began to gain traction, Bundy became immediately recognizable to Kloepfer. In the trailer, even as she confronts Bundy about his resemblance to the suspect sketch in the trailer, she quickly changes her tune when her daughter lovingly greets him, putting her mind at ease (at least for the moment).

However, despite her doubts about Bundy, she still suggested Ted Bundy as a possible suspect to the police, having recognized him from the drawing.

The trailer suggests this when Liz's friend Joanna is shown asking her how Ted’s name got on the suspect list. Kloepfer would in fact suggest Bundy as a suspect a total of three times as the scope of his crimes grew from state to state, even as she maintained her relationship with him over the years.

What could possibly explain such delusion and unwillingness to face the truth about Bundy is the common view that on appearance only, he never looked like the kind of man capable of committing such horrendous acts of violence. For all intents and purposes Ted was a seemingly normal man. He was charismatic, charming, and viewed as intelligent.

Described as almost a chameleon with a transformative essence, Bundy was a hard man to pin down both for those around him and for the investigators who pursued him. He would use those qualities to his advantage to maintain his innocence until authorities ultimately closed in.

Even as he remained incarcerated, Carole Ann Boone, whom Bundy would marry during his Florida trial, championed his innocence until his eleventh hour confession, after which she felt deeply betrayed. However, even with his confessions to at least 30 murders, there were those who still fought for him, such as Diana Weiner, a young Florida civil attorney and his last purported love interest, who attempted one last stay of execution by fighting for executive clemency.

The lengths to which some of these women went to, for a man rightly viewed as a monster, is almost unfathomable.

After his execution, there were even women who wrote and called true crime novelist Ann Rule (author of the Ted Bundy autobiography The Stranger Beside Me ), saying they were deeply depressed because of Bundy’s death. Some even reported going through nervous breakdowns at his death.

While the attraction he held for women would call to mind a similar situation in the case of Charles Manson, it’s entirely dissimilar. Manson’s notoriety became emblematic of insanity and violence, given the cult formed around him, but Bundy was an entirely different beast due to the disconnect between the man and his crimes. With Manson his crimes were easy to believe—his crimes were chalked up to his appearance and insanity, but with Bundy there was disbelief for those very same reasons—he was handsome and looked sane.

It’s those reasons—that he was by all accounts a normal man on the surface—that likely make him the most notorious and fascinating serial killer of modern times. Interest in him isn’t based on his identity or the coded ciphers left behind by the Zodiac Killer, or how he came off as a weird outsider like Jeffrey Dahmer.

Instead, Bundy’s everyday man appearance spurns this interest to make sense of him and just how A led to B. This need to contextualize him and understand him is because at its core, the Ted Bundy story is one of how a normal looking man on the surface could be "extremely wicked, shockingly evil, and vile." ~Paolo Maquiraya

zodiac killer movie review ted bundy

"Sleeping with a baseball bat under the bed, constantly looking over our shoulders, school buses with police escorts, and wondering just who among our neighbors might be a serial killer or his next victim." � So said a reporter who had lived in Vallejo, California during the late 1960s era of the Zodiac murders. � He offered his recollection for The Patriot-News as the movie of this infamous case hit its first-weekend stride, and director David Fincher ( Se7en ) deftly recreates this very mix of tension and terror. � While events are familiar to most crime buffs, the settings, choice of actors, polished atmosphere, and selected interactions are nevertheless satisfying. � For newbies to this tale, the suspense alone should prove gripping. � But beneath the surface, there's more.

The self-dubbed Zodiac's crimes began with the fatal shooting of a pair of Vallejo teenagers on their first date. Later, he killed two women, one in Vallejo and another in Napa County, taking credit for all three incidents before his execution- style shooting of San Francisco cab driver Paul Stine in October 1969. � Since he killed in several jurisdictions, before computers and fax machines were commonly used, he cleverly obstructed a unified investigation. �

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the political cartoonist and author Robert Graysmith, Robert Downey, Jr. as crime reporter Paul Avery, and Mark Ruffalo as lead investigator Dave Toschi, the film is structured as two distinct but connected stories: 1) the murders and their impact on the Bay area, and 2) one man's personal quest to unmask the killer. � The transitions are smooth and the urgency lively as each key character makes both allies and enemies. � Some lose their way entirely, victims of their inability to cope, while others find something essential in the scary events to care about.

A few reviewers have complained that once investigation loses steam halfway through, the pace declines, but in fact it's at this point that the story reveals the demands and frustrations of due process — the way it really happens, contrary to how today's crime show writers pace their tales. � An investigation like this was not easy and certainly not solvable with some quick deductions from obvious clues. � What replaces the breathless pace we've grown used to is the way the various crime-solvers in this film brainstorm together for personal closure, recalling the clue-developing conversations from the classic film, All the President's Men . � They stick with it, even when they know they can't take it to court. � "Just because you can't prove it," says Graysmith, "doesn't mean it's not true."

Yet, just because you have a good set of coincidences doesn't mean your interpretation is correct, either. � Mix ambiguity and coincidence with a craving for certainty and you'll get an answer but not necessarily the answer. � We see how slippery this approach gets for Graysmith in several scenes. � If a handwriting expert supports his notions, for example, the expert is credible; if not, the expert can't be trusted. � That's poor investigation: by hook or by crook, make the facts fit the theory.

The Zodiac Killer Feature Story

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The Cinemaholic

Review: ‘Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer’

Tejasvani Datta of Review: ‘Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer’

If you’re interested in true crime and serial killers, chances are Ted Bundy was amongst the first names you heard about. Considered one the most notorious serial killers of the 20th century, Bundy continues to fascinate the masses as much as he horrifies them. Nothing about him screamed serial killer as Bundy was a charming, soft-spoken, well-educated law-student.

Yet Bundy’s confessions stated that he raped, killed and dismembered over 30 young women, with the youngest being only 12-years-old. His was the first televised trial in history, turning the notorious killer into an international media sensation overnight. For decades, media has glorified the man as “charismatic” and “evil”, turning him into some kind of hero of his story.

This remains true till date, with last year alone giving us Joe Berlinger’s ‘ The Ted Bundy Tapes ‘, followed by his ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’. Both of which highlighted the killer, almost glamorized him, instead of ever focusing on the victims. The latest offering on the man, ‘ Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer ‘ is a much-needed breath of fresh air. The docuseries is the first one ever from the female perspective, and focuses primarily on the victims, survivors, and his long-term girlfriend, Elizabeth Kendall. SPOILERS ALERT!

Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer Recap

zodiac killer movie review ted bundy

The docuseries serves as a collection of narratives from the people, particularly the women, whose lives were impacted by Ted Bundy. It begins in 1969, five years before the killings, and traces the relationship Elizabeth and Molly Kendall shared with him. Liz moved to Seattle in ’69 with a 3-year-old Molly, and met Ted for the first time at a bar.

The three soon became a family, with Bundy as a father-figure to Molly. At the same time, it looks at the relationship his younger brother Richard shared with him. It also peeks into his professional journey, and includes the narratives of the people who taught him and hired him.

‘Falling for a Killer’ traces the beginning of Bundy’s attacks in January 1974, all the way to his execution in 1989. In the process, it looks at  different women whose lives became entangled with his, directly and indirectly. These include the narratives of the survivors, and the family and loved ones of the several victims who didn’t have the same fate.

At the same time, the series ties his gruesome crimes against women to the larger picture by including the socio-political changes taking place at the time. These include the Women’s Liberation movement, and the birth of the Interstate Highway System. The series traces his journey as a charismatic, remorseless, cold blooded murderer. But instead of glorifying the man, it looks at the severely complicated, toxic situations the women in his life found themselves in.

Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer Review

zodiac killer movie review ted bundy

Let me just put this out there; ‘Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer’ is THE most important Bundy documentary ever made. It adds a much needed lens to the life and crimes of the most notorious, often glorified, “Lady killer”, Ted Bundy. The series achieves this with such a great deal of sensitivity, without once glamorizing the man and his crimes.

Instead, it offers a comprehensive, rounded approach to his heinous acts, leaving you angered and disgusted at his brutality and remorselessness. For the first time, this is not Bundy’s story. It is the story of the women, those who made it and those who didn’t. From his first victim (and survivor) Karen Epley, who lost half her hearing and eyesight permanently, to his last; a 12-year-old school girl, Kimberly Leach, who was abducted from her school and raped, murdered and mutilated. These stories are meant to shatter your fascination for the man, shocking you with the ugly truth that media usually chooses to ignore.

By giving the ownership of the narratives to the women in his life, it offers a much needed change in the ways we choose perceive Bundy, especially during the time that marks 30 years to his execution.  We learn about the complexities and sorrows encountered by Elizabeth and Molly, who were, in many ways, stuck victims of an abusive and manipulative relationship. Similarly, it brilliantly connects the man and his crimes to the larger socio-political changes taking place, by including the women from law-enforcement and media, who broke gender barriers, and were in some way or another involved in bringing justice to the victims.

‘Ted Bundy: Falling for the Killer’ is a much-needed loud wake-up call for us to look at these tragedies, as they are. For any true crime fan, the docuseries is a goldmine of knowledge. It makes the viewers realize that even for a cold-blooded psychopath, his actions become a part of the larger narrative. He exists as a part of our society and culture.

This is precisely why it becomes incredibly crucial to introduce the impact of Women’s Liberation Movement at the time. Not only did the political climate affect his crimes, his crimes in turn played a major role in the larger movement.

There was a reason why he targetted young, naive women/girls between the age of 12 and 22. It is the same reason why victims of sexual violence are largely girls around the age of 15. Such cases of violence occur widely in schools and colleges – institutions where they are guarded from the outside world, institutions where they are dependent on authority figures. These were the spaces that Bundy targetted. Gynocide is ultimately rooted in politics of gender and power, and so is rape and mutilation of women. All of which, Bundy was guilty of. We must realize these without glorifying Bundy for how soft-spoken and “charming” he was.

The five-part docuseries becomes all the more important at a time when we can still feel the ripples of the #MeToo movement. Media has for too long made use of raped and dead bodies of women as an essential component for “entertainment” in crime dramas. It’s about time to change that, especially when it comes to Bundy and his crimes. These were real women he killed who are merely remembered as sites of violence, without anyone knowing who they really were, their dreams, aspirations, kindness, and love. And this is precisely what ‘Falling for a Killer’ sets out to capture and achieve.

Even when we exclude the larger significance of the docuseries, ‘Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer” is a brilliantly crafted collection of narratives. From its cinematography and aesthetics, to its archival footage and photographs, the series successfully manages to take us back to the 1970s, into the lives of the women whose lives were destroyed by Bundy. It may feel slightly slow at times. But it always has something new to offer, even for those of us who already know Bundy’s story. Well, it’s after all not just his story anymore.

Read More: Best Ted Bundy Movies


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Skin-crawling charm … Chad Michael Murray in Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman.

Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman review – pointless portrait of a serial killer

This voyeuristic drama about the FBI hunt for Bundy makes his victims indistinguishable and leaves a nasty taste in the mouth

I couldn’t stomach this pointless and dull drama about the FBI hunt for loathsome serial killer Ted Bundy. It comes on the heels of the Zac Efron biopic and Netflix’s documentary series based on prison tape recordings with Bundy, who eventually confessed to murdering more than 30 women (and was suspected by police of killing many more). What this film adds to the Bundy frenzy is a portrait of the serial killer at work: driving around in his VW Beetle stalking and abducting young victims. It’s not that these slickly shot scenes are particularly gruesome, but they do feel cheap and voyeuristic. We watch his unsuspecting young victims, oblivious to what’s coming. Look, he’s behind you!

That said, Chad Michael Murray is a more convincing Bundy than Zac Efron; he plays it bland, dreary and dull, more inadequate. Even his nice-ordinary-guy charm has a skin-crawling quality. The film goes to some lengths to show off Bundy’s predator instincts. In the first murder shown, he uses a prop: hobbling on crutches in a car park pretending to have an injured leg. He makes a show of dropping his car keys. The victim – he preys on kindness – bends down, on her hands and knees to retrieve his keys from under the car. Another time he impersonates a cop to lure a teenager into his car. This is every woman’s worst nightmare. We watch the fear on their faces as they realise what’s happening. Do we really need to see it over and over again? It doesn’t help that the victims are mostly indistinguishable – an interchangeable series of pretty young white brunettes.

Investigating Bundy is cop Kathleen McChesney (Holland Roden) and FBI agent Robert Ressler (Jake Hays), a lightweight duo who stare furrow-eyebrowed at photos of blood-stained mattresses and bashed-in decomposed skulls. Honestly, there is no earthly reason for the existence of this film; it might work for the Bundyphiles but it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth for everyone else.

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