On Friday, the controversial Ted Bundy biopic Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile hit Netflix, telling the story of the serial killer’s crimes from the perspective of his ex-girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, "Liz" (Lily Collins) in the movie version. But while the story is based on Kloepfer’s 1981 book, The Phantom Price: My Life With Ted Bundy, and goes into their romantic relationship, critics have expressed frustration with the film's excess focus on Bundy and his charms and lack of focus on Kloepfer's experience.
So if you saw the movie, you probably have a few lingering questions about Bundy's ex. Even after watching, it’s hard to understand how Kloepfer felt and what she went through. Why did Liz believe Bundy? And why did she stay with him?
If you caught Netflix’s documentary, Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, which was released earlier this year, you already know that Kloepfer was suspicious of Bundy and eventually did report behavior to police that she was concerned about. But because he didn’t act suspicious all of the time, and because of their interactions on a daily basis, she didn’t think he was capable of murder, and she believed him.
"In my own mind, there were coincidences that seemed to tie him to it, yet when I would think about or day-to-day relationship there was nothing there that would lead me to think that he was a violent man capable of doing something like that,” Kloepfer said in an interview in the documentary.
Although she was suspicious of Bundy, she still stayed with him. But why? According to The Daily Mail, Kloepfer felt guilty for going to the police, and while Bundy was in prison and on trial, she stayed loyal to him, and they continued communicating by correspondence.
“There were questions we didn’t ask each other by unspoken agreement,” Kloepfer wrote. “He didn’t ask me why or what I told the police and I didn’t ask him about his connection to the crimes.”
After a while — a time period that included Bundy’s first escape from prison — their correspondence eventually died down, and Bundy married Carole Ann Boone while he was on trial. Kloepfer moved on with her life, and Bundy was executed via electric chair on January 24, 1989.
In her book, Kloepfer did acknowledge Bundy’s victims, and the fact that she was lucky to be alive.
“Never did I forget that real women had been murdered for no other reason than they were attractive and friendly,” she wrote. “The hideous reality of their deaths became my reality, too. Their tragedy was my trauma.”
It’s hard to understand Kloepfer’s relationship with Bundy without being in it, but Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile at least attempts to show pieces of her experience. Collins, who plays Kloepfer in the film, spent time with her to better understand her point of view. Still, it seems, now that the film is out, Kloepfer's story is overshadowed by the image of Bundy. But her side of the story, in whatever pieces are available, is far more interesting.