Extremely wicked, shockingly evil, and vile is Ted Bundy. Extremely convincing, shockingly similar in appearance, and haunting is Zac Efron as the serial killer in director Joe Berlinger‘s forthcoming film — of course entitled Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.
Ahead of the film’s world premiere at Sundance Film Festival this Saturday, January 26, studio Voltage Pictures released the first trailer, which establishes the premise of the Michael Werwie-penned thriller. It’s captivating, carries a bizarre tone for a flick about an actual murderer, and ensures that you’ll never look at Zac Efron the same way again.
The year? 1969. The place? Seattle, Washington. A “crazy-handsome, smart, charismatic, affectionate” man named Ted Bundy has taken a liking to single mother Elizabeth “Liz” Kloepfer, played by Lily Collins. To Liz, Ted is everything a straight woman would want a man to be: charming, dashing, sweet, caring, and great with her daughter from a previous relationship — exactly the kind of person you could imagine spending your life with in perfect, uninterrupted bliss. And for a while, that’s exactly what the pair do. The couple exists in a bubble of happiness, with Liz often wondering, “What is it about this guy? When I feel his love, I feel like I’m on top of the world.”
Liz and Ted’s thought-flawless world suddenly comes crashing down when Ted is convicted and charged with a string of increasingly horrifying crimes, including the murders of multiple women. At first, Liz denies that Ted could ever commit such gruesome acts of violence, but as more evidence pours in, she must confront the possibility (that’s actually a reality) that the man she loves most is a narcissistic, psychopathic killer.
The trailer for Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile paints Efron’s Ted in the same way Liz sees him: impossibly charming. He winks at the camera, declares that he’s “more popular than Disney World,” shows up in court wearing flashy suits, spreads a smile across his face to conceal his sinister nature more times than we can count, and even has his ex-wife, Carole Ann Boone (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales actress Kaya Scodelario), rallying behind him when she argues to a group of reporters that the “media convicted Ted before he’s had his day in court.”
While many have pointed out in the comments of the trailer post that the first-look footage “looks like a weird action comedy about a guy who brutally murdered over 30 people” and that its tone that seems to present Ted Bundy as “a misunderstood good guy” who accidentally kills people “makes absolutely no sense,” it seems important to note that the story of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is told from Liz’s perspective. She remains in deep denial over Ted’s crimes until she is forced to accept that he is a ruthless killer and ultimately turns him in; the film will likely shift from a more “lighthearted” tone into a dark, gritty one when that switch in Liz’s mentality happens.
Also, this is only the first trailer (which is really more of a teaser) for the film, so future promos could feel completely different. We all know how common it is for trailers to deceive us, with pre-release footage and the final product looking like two separate things entirely. This isn’t to say that Berlinger and Voltage Pictures are pulling a fast one on audiences here, but there is something to be said about withholding judgements until more is revealed.
Also featured in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile and seen in this first trailer are John Malkovich as Judge Edward Cowart, the presiding judge who sentenced Ted Bundy to death, and Jim Parsons as lead prosecutor Larry Simpson. Rounding out the cast are Angela Sarafyan (Westworld), Jeffrey Donovan (Shut Eye), Grace Victoria Cox (Heathers), Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense, Sex Ed), Dylan Baker (The American), Terry Kinney (Billions), James Hetfield (of Metallica fame), and Brian Geraghty (Boardwalk Empire).
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is currently without a theatrical release date. It will debut at Sundance this Saturday.