Ted Bundy (2002) Review


Directed by Matthew Bright

Review by sbs

Released in 2002

Ted Bundy (2002)

Ted Bundy drove a tan (not yellow) Volkswagen Beetle while he killed, at least, 30 young girls and women in the 1970s when Bundy was kidnapping women, often in broad daylight. Famously, Ted got away with it for a long time. There Is a reason why Ted Bundy is the most famous serial killer of all time. He is the poster boy of “anyone can be evil incarnated.” Nobody thought Ted was anything but a charming intelligent fellow. He literally got a lot of his victims to help him, feigning a broken arm (Buffalo Bill stole that move in Silence of the Lambs (1991)). You could trust Ted.

Bundy was a rising star in the Republican party and volunteered at Suicide Hotline Crisis Centre. There, he worked alongside Ann Rule, a true crime writer who was following the brutal ongoing case of rape and murders. She would later write a book about her friend, The Stranger Beside Me, the kind and empathetic Ted Bundy that turned out to be one of the vicious humans that ever lived.

This is important information for those few who didn’t know it because this is exactly where Ted Bundy fails. Bundy is portrayed by Michael Reilly Burke, who is a fine-looking man, but he doesn’t capture just how handsome Ted Bundy was. That can be forgiven, but what is more important, he doesn’t capture how charming and innocent Ted appeared—from the get-go he gives off a creep vibe. That’s also the fault of the script itself. The Bundy on portrayal here is obviously perverted, awkward, and careless—he hides in the bushes masturbating while watching women undress and doesn’t care though the neighbors yell at him. There is something obviously off with him.

The intent of the movie was, I think, to show how anyone can be a monster, but Bundy already did that in real life. There also seems to be another intent and that is to show that even a monster like Bundy can be sympathetic and personal battles. That’s all well and good, but the film does something that I find quite unforgivable.

I love horror films, so I have no qualms about murders in films; however, most films aren’t based on real people being the victims. This movie is. The way Bundy’s murders are depicted here, almost in a fun road-trip montage way, full of gratuitous nudity and gore. There is no sympathy for the innocent women being bound, raped, and brutally beaten to death—it’s just Ted doing his thing in between acting normal and shoplifting.

There is just one person that gets a sympathetic death, and that’s Ted himself. After being tried and found guilty, Ted is sentenced to death by the electric chair. The longest scene in the film is how him scared, crying, watching the men who will make him ready to be executed. One gets the feeling that the filmmakers find the brutality of shaving Ted Bundy’s hair much worse than any of his crimes.

Now, I am anti-death penalty and I think it was a huge mistake executing Bundy. He should have been studied and probed until his death—like Hannibal Lecter. We could have learned a lot more about the mind of the true psychopath from him. I, however, don’t think Ted Bundy is the person you should chose if you want to make an anti-death penalty film, and that’s what this feels like. The scene of execution and its preparation is intercut with real life footage of people cheering that the guy who brutally raped and murdered at least 30 young women is being put to death. This wasn’t a case of “maybe he is innocent,” this was a real-life monster. If anybody should be executed, it was Ted Bundy.

The film has two writers credited. Stephen Johnston, who seems to have been the go-to guy for schlocky scripts about real life killers—he also wrote Ed Gein (2000), The Hillside Strangler (2004), and Starkweather (2004). The other is Matthew Bright, who is also the film’s director. Matthew was in one of my favorite films Richard Elfman’s Forbidden Zone (1980). He also wrote and directed Freeway (1996) a brutal and fantastic rendition of Little Red Riding Hood, starring young Reese Witherspoon and Kiefer Sutherland. Forbidden Zone is not the weirdest film in his bio though because he also made Tiptoes (2003), the film where Matthew McConaughey is ashamed of his family because they are dwarfs, much to chagrin of his small stature brother, who is for some reason played by Gary Oldman walking on his shins. To be fair, Bright lost control of that movie to the studio and I’m pretty sure that he didn’t have much input in the final version of Ted Bundy either.

Ted Bundy takes the real-life story of brutal rapes and murders of girls and women—the youngest was twelve—and turns it into a sympathetic story of a perverted man who is barbarically executed by an unfair system. It fails in being historically accurate in most parts and becomes an almost comedy horror film until we are supposed to weep for the harsh treatment Bundy gets from his executioners. Its whole premise is fatally flawed.

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