Following its hugely successful world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, Joe Berlinger’s “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” is heading to Netflix and select theaters this summer and bringing with it one of Zac Efron’s most critically acclaimed performances to date. The actor plays the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy in the movie, but Berlinger’s script is less concerned with Bundy’s murders and more focused on how Bundy impacted the people closest to him.
The brief official synopsis from Netflix reads: “A chronicle of the crimes of Ted Bundy from the perspective of Liz, his longtime girlfriend, who refused to believe the truth about him for years.” Berlinger cast Lily Collins as Bundy’s girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer, while key supporting roles are played by Kaya Scodelario, Jim Parsons, and John Malkovich. The latter stars as Edward Cowart, the judge who presided over Bundy’s trial.
Netflix made headlines at Sundance for picking up “Extremely Wicked” in what some trades reported was an $8 million deal. In an era where the debate between movie theaters and the streaming platform continues to grow, Berlinger tells IndieWire he decided to partner with Netflix over other potential distribution partners because “filmmakers want eyeballs.” Berlinger has seen first hand Netflix’s ability to connect original content to a global audience having worked with the company on “Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru” and “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.”
“With Netflix, I can have my cake and eat it too: the idea of reaching audiences around the globe at the level Netflix has already delivered to my other projects outweighs the theatrical-first argument for me, with this particular film,” Berlinger said. “The absurdly high and to me unnecessary cost of releasing a film theatrically — I am told often $15-20 million is a minimum P&A spend for a viable theatrical release — means that a lot of movies often sink like a stone and are forgotten. I did not want to take that risk with this film. A lot of ‘indie’-style films by big name directors have not worked as theatrical releases recently, threatening the extinction of this kind of film. Netflix and other streamers have injected a new lease on life for these kind of edgy independent films.”
Berlinger also said Netflix excels when it comes to marketing, as seen in the exclusive trailer for “Extremely Wicked” in the video below. A teaser trailer for the movie was released shortly before its Sundance premiere, but Berlinger said Netflix was able to do a much better job at properly capturing the spirit of what the film is really about.
“This Netflix trailer zeroes in on the mission of the film, which is to give the audience the same experience of betrayal and deception that Bundy created with everyone around him — friends, co-workers and most notably, longtime girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer, whose nonfiction memoir is the basis for the film,” Berlinger said. “The trailer gives the world a glimpse into telling Bundy’s story from Liz’s unique point of view.”
Berlinger continued, “While there have been many serial killer films that detail every aspect of the depravity of violence, I wanted to focus on how this disturbed serial killer used his charming skills as a master manipulator to pull the wool over the eyes of those closest to him and to prey on dozens of victims. This is a portrait of seduction and betrayal by a psychopath, a portrait of pretending you’re one thing and having people believe you just because of how you look and act. It is a story of how the criminal justice system, the media and people very close to Ted, including the woman he was most intimate with, were manipulated by him.”
“Extremely Wicked” will open May 3 in select theaters and on Netflix. Check out the official Netflix trailer and poster below.