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Marvin J. Chomsky
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Docu-drama based on the life of Ted Bundy, a serial killer who killed at least 19 young women during the 1970's (though some sources say as many as 30 to 35 were murdered). Set from his college student years, to his first victims, his capture, escape from prison (twice), his final killing spree to his trial, conviction and execution. Written by
A Gripping True Story Ruined By Exploitation and Hearsay
If you watch this movie and don't know anything about the real Ted Bundy, you may not be disappointed. However, if you have read material on him such as the Ann Rule novel "The Stranger Beside Me" (an excellent read, by the way), you are going to hate this movie. "Ted Bundy" (I put the name of the movie in quotes to differentiate the film from the actual person) is an ambitious movie indeed, but unfortunately the makers of this film are more concerned with making a horror movie than an accurate portrayal of a complex and ruthless serial killer.
There is a lot wrong with "Ted Bundy". For one, this movie ends with a relatively haunting epilogue in subtitles, stating that in the months leading to Ted Bundy's execution, he received more than 200 letters a day from women who claim to have loved him. This fact may not be exaggerated, but the film leaves viewers wondering why any woman would love the guy they see in this film.
Michael Reilly Burke (who, if you were wondering, is no relation to this critic) may not be a bad actor, but there is one major flaw in his portrayal of Ted Bundy. Specifically, Ted Bundy, in real life, was a good looking guy, whereas Burke is not good looking in the slightest. Bundy's good looks were part of the reason he got away with so many grizzly murders. The scariest thing about Ted Bundy was that (most of) the women whom he killed would regard Ted Bundy as the last person who would brutally kill them. One look at Burke, on the other hand, would probably want to make anyone, let alone women, want to run fast.
It would be cruel to say that Burke is ugly. The truth is, though, that there is nothing appealing at all about the way Burke looks or acts. Case in point: the first scene involves Burke looking into a mirror and, while repeating, "Hi, I'm Ted Bundy. Nice to meet you," makes creepy sucking noises and strange faces. He looks more like an antisocial geek doing a lame imitation of Hannibal Lector.
That's not so much Burke's fault as it is the fault of whomever filmed this movie. The director really takes a disturbing true story and exploits it as a campy horror film. In portraying Bundy as a faceless, one-dimensional killer, the director really missed the point of what truly made Bundy scary.
The best movie about Ted Bundy remains "The Deliberate Stranger", the 1986 TV movie starring Mark Harmon. That movie, although it did not have the R-rated freedom this one does, portrayed Ted Bundy as an outgoing, handsome young man who no one believed at first would be so ruthless against women. The film focused more on Ted Bundy himself, and the police's confusion as to how this supposedly normal guy could commit such heinous murders. "The Deliberate Stranger", although it didn't show much in the way of blood and guts, was chilling because it mainly stuck straight to the facts.
The people who made "Ted Bundy" appear to know the basic, encyclopedic facts about the sociopathic killer, but seem to have made up their own facts as they went along. For instance, the scene where Burke follows a woman home, then looks into her bedroom and begins to masturbate, seemed highly unlikely. A neighbor sees him (apparently not for the first time) and throws water at him. Ann Rule described no such occurrence in "The Stranger Beside Me", which offered a very detailed account of Bundy's crimes. All the ways in which Bundy was apprehended in this film are also exaggerated, at least according to what I've read.
Another inconsistent subplot, probably made more confusing by hearsay, was Bundy's steady girlfriend, played by Boti Bliss. Her character, Lee, is based on the real woman (who went, for a while, by the alias Elizabeth Kendall) that would go on to write "The Phantom Prince" about her life with Bundy. Here, she is portrayed as way too oblivious to the obvious. The biggest dead ringer for her should have been the lewd sexual acts Bundy does to her, such as tying her to the bed and having her pretend she's dead. I don't know if Bundy really subjected his girlfriend to such an act, but there's no doubt this women wouldn't wonder, "Gee, I never knew Ted was a serial killer. I lived with him for years. Who is he?" I felt like saying, "C'mon, lady, the pretending you're dead didn't reveal anything obvious to you?"
Bundy was indeed a monster in real life. He wouldn't have murdered over 30 women in his lifetime if he wasn't. However, the scenes where he rapes and murders women, although they are gruesome, really miss what made Bundy so scary. He was a handsome, well-educated man who could have done a lot of good with his life, but instead chose to harm innocent victims. You'd know that fact from watching "The Deliberate Stranger", where the murders happen mostly off screen. In this movie, the murders happen right before your eyes, but the things that made the real Ted Bundy scary are completely lost here. This may as well be a horror flick from the makers of "Euro Trip". The filmmakers just missed the point of Ted Bundy. Period.
Perhaps the most upsetting is an otherwise good execution scene, combining real footage of people holding signs up in favor of Bundy's death, ruined by an ambiguous montage of kids saying "I am Ted Bundy". What was the point of that end footage? Not only should Spike Lee sue these filmmakers for pointlessly ripping off "Malcolm X", but why would these kids even know who Ted Bundy is? Of course, exploitation defies reason. Just ask whoever made this film.
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