Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 39 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Violence involving a Sexual Predator/Serial Killer, Sexuality/Nudity and Language
Directed by: Matthew Bright
Written by: Stephen Johnston & Matthew Bright
Starring: Michael Reilly Burke, Boti Bliss, Steffani Brass, Eric DaRe, Tricia Dickson, Meadow Sisto, Tiffany Shepis & Tom Savini
From 1974 to 1978, a monster terrorized a nation in the guise of a friendly boy next door. Ted Bundy kidnapped, raped, tortured, and killed over 30 women in four years. He was a master manipulator and preyed upon anyone. Bundy was one of most infamous serial killers in history. For some reason, filmmakers were revisiting many psychopaths as fodder for movies in the early 2000’s. Centering films on real-life psychopaths can understandably be a difficult, though not impossible, task. The key to success would be in treating the story as the disturbing material it is and casting the right actor in the role of the mass murderer. Director/co-writer Matthew Bright didn’t seem to grasp either of these qualities in making TED BUNDY. Instead, he seems to have simply set out to make a cheap exploitation film that happened to be loosely based on Bundy’s bloody rampage.
Ted Bundy seems to your average nice guy, but there’s a heinous monster hiding under his calm appearance. Ted’s living a double-life as a sexual predator and enjoys toying with his girlfriend’s emotions to give himself a greater sense of power. Eventually, Ted just plain snaps and begins killing women (any female stranger who appears to be an easy victim). This film follows snippets of his cross-country murder spree, his growing insanity (as he becomes a necrophile for good measure), both of his captures, a successful escape attempt and his eventual execution. It could have been the chilling portrait of a human monster that would resonate in the viewer’s mind long after the end credits rolled, but instead TED BUNDY winds up being a cheap mess in tone and script.
The most obvious problem with TED BUNDY comes in the casting of Michael Reilly Burke who is grossly out-of-place in the role of this literal lady-killer. The actual Ted Bundy was a manipulative monster who could charm any woman into unintentionally becoming his next victim, but this was partially out of the fact that he was so good-looking. Appearances usually don’t matter in the casting of a psychopath, but Burke looks/acts like a psycho from frame one. There’s no sense of subtlety in his portrayal of Bundy, which manages to make everyone around him look like an idiot for trusting this clear-cut lunatic. Instead of a frightening and cold monster, I kept seeing a raving lunatic running around on the screen. The young actresses cast as Ted’s victims act like typical slasher movie victims as well, which is just plain disrespectful to the real women who died at Bundy’s hands.
The script is a mess and seems to play fast and loose with its episodic narrative. Seeing as Bundy’s life did have many highlights (possibly the wrong choice of word) through the years, the movie would clearly need to jump around from year to year. However, it seems to skip out on some of the more intriguing aspects (shortening both of his arrests and his escape), not to mention his already demented childhood, and spends far too much on certain murder scenes themselves. It’s all in an effort for shock value that seems tasteless. The production values are shoddy as well. This was not a big budget movie, but it looks like a cheap TV film and has rough patches of audio where there’s bad dubbing or a faulty on-set microphone being used.
The biggest sin that TED BUNDY commits is being campy and jokey in tone. There are winks and nudges to the viewer. The most obvious of which comes in a scene where Ted’s friends talk about the recent murders and this psycho all but looks into the camera and winks. At the end, there’s a half-assed attempt to hammer a serious note on this serial killer. It’s too little too late. These moments coming in a forced line of Bundy’s former girlfriend repeating the obvious “Who was Ted Bundy?”, Ted whining that he’s still human at his execution, and a pretentious montage of little kids saying “I’m Ted Bundy.” for no reason at all. To make everything much more aggravating and unbalanced, a pop song closes off the end credits. If you’re looking for a horrific film about real-life serial killers, check out the highly acclaimed HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, the deeply disturbing SNOWTOWN or the underrated DEAR MR. GACY. Avoid TED BUNDY like you would any other B-flick trying to profit off a real-life tragedy.