Zac Efron stars in misguided portrait of the serial killer

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Ted Bundy had fans, the same way pop stars or championship athletes have fans. Sick though it was, young women would show up to cheer him on while he was on trial for murder. He was, as they say, hot. 

That phenomenon speaks to Bundy's charisma, which helped him lure his victims — 30 homicides that he admitted to, although some think the actual number is much higher.   

That same spell he cast falls over "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile," the largely sympathetic portrayal of Bundy which not only paints him in a flattering light, it for the most part lets him off the hook for his crimes. Bundy himself couldn't have come up with a more favorable self portrait.

Zac Efron plays Bundy like he's the lead in a wacky legal drama about a wrongly accused man who is going to pull himself out of this mess using his own wherewithal. What a rascal he is! It's a strange approach, but it's the direction this misguided film takes, choosing to focus on the mask Bundy wears rather than what's behind it. 

Lily Collins is flat as Liz Kendall, Bundy's Seattle girlfriend who doesn't want to believe Bundy is guilty of all those crimes of which he's accused. Wake up, girl. She spends her time moping around her house, avoiding his phone calls, and it takes her way too long to realize by unplugging her landline he can no longer get to her.

Director Joe Berlinger is a steadfast documentarian who knows the horrors of Bundy's crimes, having directed this year's Netflix series "Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes." Here he travels a path that is ill-advised at best, irresponsible at worst. It's vile, indeed. 

'Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile'

GRADE: D

Rated R: for disturbing/violent content, some sexuality, nudity and language

Running time: 110 minutes

On Netflix 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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