Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

When a new biopic appears, covering an already well known story, one has to ask, what are those involved trying to achieve with this? What do they feel they have to say which has not been said before? In the case of Ted Bundy's story, it would be all too easy to write off the film as sensationalist, cashing in on real-life horrors with an audience always interested in serial killers, blood and gore, screaming women and scares. This film, however, is something different, and takes a bold, cold look at the man at the centre of it all.

This perspective is not a comfortable one, and the script does its best to make the audience uncomfortable - embarrassed, disgusted, socially repulsed - long before anything as sensational as murder occurs. Bundy's kleptomania is illustrated in a series of vignettes which it is hard to watch without feeling nervous on his behalf, though he seems to feel no concern at all, which very quickly demonstrates the difference in his psychology.

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As the story develops, it becomes apparent that the very audacity of his crimes was what enabled him to get away with so many, whilst this same quality ensured that, sooner or later, he would be caught. A intelligent and educated man, he was clearly aware of this, struggling to reconcile it with the compulsive behaviour which he herein continually tries to justify to himself as a simple exercise of power, one memorable scene being that in which he yells at a captive that he is in control. While this may sound corny, it actually works very well, because it's so up close and personal, and Michael Reilly Burke, playing Ted, gives a remarkable performance.

Pursuing so closely the perspective of the killer does nothing to reduce the horror of his crimes. This film has none of the TV-movie wallpaper look of the earlier Ted Bundy: The Mind Of A Killer. Its lurid energy and sharp attention to detail don't falter at the point here the ugliness begins; if anything, they encourage the audience to believe that some things are inevitable, the same dangerous way of thinking that Bundy encouraged the psychologists who studied him to ascribe to.

There is a strong sense of period enhanced by a vibrant soundtrack and a rich supply of cinematic references, with a chase through the woods reminiscent of Russ Meyer's more playful work, before it gives way to something chilling. The women whom Bundy kills, and a great many more whom he considers, are photographed in an intensely sensual way, but without seeming deliberately sexual, as if their youthful innocence is part of their appeal. This emphasises the ease with which Bundy could carry out his attacks, and it is contrasted with the paranoia and sexual uncertainty of his girlfriend Leigh.

Throughout the film, assorted men and women argue or complain about one another, illustrating the seam of resentment and mistrust from which Bundy's urges might have developed, and once again contrasting his abnormal behaviour with that of all the people who resist doing similar things. There are many more questions here than answers, but still plenty of interest. Of course, this film was slated by some critics, who called it crude and pornographic, but wasn't that the very nature of Bundy's relationship with the world?

Reviewed on: 04 Apr 2009
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Biopic of serial killer Ted Bundy.
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Keith Hennessey Brown *1/2

Director: Matthew Bright

Writer: Matthew Bright, Stephen Johnston

Starring: Michael Reilly Burke, Boti Ann Bliss, Stefani Brass, Marina Black, Wayne Morse, Tom Savini

Year: 2002

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


EIFF 2002

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