When I first heard this film was being released, I was both excited and skeptical. I was excited because the images I was seeing from the film looked very well done, but I couldn’t help but wonder if Zac Efron was going to be able to pull this off. While this film does have it’s flaws, the cast really brings their all and I saw Zac Efron in a new light; I saw him as a serious dramatic actor. Overall Extremely Wicked, Shocking Evil, and Vile is a well made film and deserves at least one watch.
The cast does a lot for this film; their performances uplift the somewhat average material. Lily Collins gives the best performance I’ve ever seen from her. To be completely honest I’ve never been that impressed by her, but she gives it her all as Liz Kendall. She has a lovable, soft presence about her that fits the role perfectly. Seeing what her love and connection to Bundy does to her brings a lot of depth to the story. But don’t think she’s a complete victim, she has her moments of strength, which Collins pulls off nicely. I’ve always had a mixed opinion of Zac Efron.
I wasn’t a fan of his performances in two of his most recent films, The Greatest Showman and The Beach Bum. On the other hand, I absolutely loved him in both of the Neighbors films, where yes he brings a lot of crazy R rated energy, but is also able to be disarmingly charming. While I loved him in those films, I’d never seen him in such a dramatic and dark role as this.
He uses that same charm we’ve seen from him previously here, which makes his performance so interesting. As I was watching him, I kept thinking how I was supposed to hate this guy but he came across so courtly and warm. I felt Collins’s pain because he was so easy to love yet this evidence was pointing to such awful crimes. The amount of confidence Efron exudes works really well too, he never once flinches in the face of the many charges brought against him. All of this makes his lead performance captivating and proves that Efron is game for dramatic projects.
Kaya Scodelario gives a wonderful performance as Carole Anne Boone. Her character’s devotion to Bundy is almost frightening; she’s completely brainwashed and mesmerized by him. All of these things come out perfectly through her performance. I was glad to see both Jim Parsons and John Malkovich too, and Malkovich was actually put to good use here (unlike in Velvet Buzzsaw where he was completely wasted).
There’s really only one cast member that I wasn’t all too impressed by and that’s Haley Joel Osment. He wasn’t awful or anything, but with all these great performances, he just stood out as pretty average. Also I didn’t feel he was a very good fit and him and Collins have little to no chemistry. The pacing is pretty good, it’s not the best though. There are a couple places in the middle where it lags a bit, but thankfully the cast is able to pick it up and march on.
I mentioned that Osment and Collins struggled with chemistry, well let me tell ya she has no shortage of that with Efron. Their love scenes are handled really well; very passionate and genuine. The last thing I want to cover is the beginning and ending. These two scenes are bookends; the opening is Liz visiting Ted in prison before his execution and the final scene picks up where the beginning leaves off. The emotion is palpable in both these scenes. The ending is especially effective because it gives us a look into Bundy we have yet to see throughout the rest of the film. We finally see him start to admit his crimes and this makes for a very powerful exchange between Liz and Ted.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile isn’t perfect, but it’s for sure worth a watch. The performances are great and there are many powerful/interesting scenes that help tell this twisted story. Go log into your Netflix and give this one a try!