Content Warning: This article includes some mild descriptions of violence.
For better or worse, the world simply can’t get enough of true crime stories, which is why there’s so much chatter surrounding the controversial Zac Efron Ted Bundy movie, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil & Vile, streaming on Netflix now.
The film is told from the perspective of Bundy’s former girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer (Lily Collins) and how she slowly came to the realization that the man she was dating was a killer. But as intriguing as her perspective is, the title of the film doesn't really nod to Kloepfer's point of view or her memoir, on which the movie is based. In fact, the title (and the movie) doesn't seem to be about her at all — that's only part of why Netflix's Bundy film is getting backlash ahead of its release. So, if it's not about the woman who wrote the book, where does Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, & Vile come from, exactly?
The description, like the film, is all about Bundy, who admitted to killing 30 women in the 1970s, though his total number of victims is presumed to be much higher. However, the title isn’t just based on Bundy’s crimes — it’s also part of a quote made by Florida Judge Edward D. Cowart (John Malkovich), who resided over Bundy’s 1979 murder trial and ultimately sentenced the notorious serial killer to death. During his closing statement, Judge Cowart remarked:
"The court finds that both of these killings were indeed heinous, atrocious and cruel and that they were extremely wicked, shockingly evil and the product of design to inflict a high degree of pain and utter indifference to human life... It is ordered that you be put to death by a current of electricity, that that current be passed through your body until you are dead."
However, many thought Judge Cowart was too sympathetic to Bundy, despite the heinous crimes he was being charged with. Following the ruling, Judge Cowart told Bundy during his closing statement:
"Take care of yourself, young man. I say that to you sincerely; take care of yourself, please. It's a tragedy for this court to see such a total waste, I think, of humanity that I have experienced in this court. You’re a bright young man. You would have made a good lawyer and I would have loved to have you practice in front of me, but you went another way, partner. Take care of yourself. I don’t feel any animosity toward you. I want you to know that. Once again, take care of yourself."
Yes, it appeared as though Cowart was the latest in a long line of people Bundy had managed to charm with his well-known charisma and good looks. Now, of course, Extremely Wicked is in hot water for pulling a Cowart and focusing on those traits too heavily. But while his portrayal is a subject of debate, at least we know this extremely wicked, shockingly evil and vile person was given the justice he deserved and never had the chance to harm anyone else ever again.