Film & TV

Conversations with a Killer: a review

Theodore Robert Bundy – the serial killer who walked right out of jail, twice, is getting a posthumous, second spot in the limelight with both a documentary and a movie based on his crimes. An interest in ‘Ted’ Bundy and his murder of young, brunette females has sprouted, perhaps coincidentally in this era of third-wave feminism. But, this series definitely does not glorify Bundy in the same way that the Zac Efron version does. It is in fact so daunting, that viewers have been warned not to watch it alone.

The three part documentary series, ‘Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes’, shows the timeline of his killing spree, focusing on the sociopathy which made it difficult for law enforcement to pin him down. He was an intelligent man, studying law, but that may have made him a more ruthless murderer, as the evidence brought forth in the series suggests.

Credit: Netflix

Bundy had a normal upbringing, despite discovering he was ‘illegitimate’, his father was unknown, and allegedly had a violent maternal grandfather. Despite these details, it seemed strange to everyone he knew that he was capable of murder. The emphasis on the fact that he very much was, creates an excellent account of how our stereotypes are never correct – an eerie truth.

The series emphasises this by zooming in on the development of a realisation as his case progressed: that deeper levels of this cunning personality showed an insatiable, uncontrollable ego, labeled as narcissism and psychopathy by psychologists assigned to his case. The tapes of Bundy speaking are chilling, and inserted cleverly into each time stamp.

In this way, the director controlled the revelation of information in a drip-feeding fashion, making it even more real to the audience, as if it were happening today. We watch events unfold, and we get a well-rounded, unbiased account of what really happened by seeing viewpoints from both his defenders and condemners. It switches between Bundy explaining scenarios on the tapes, and accounts and videos of him by those who knew him, forming a very whole picture of him.

Credit: Netflix

It is scary and wonderful to see the original taping of Bundy’s facial expressions, changing every split second. To anyone, but especially someone who has studied some psychology, it is clear that Bundy is trying very hard to mask a dark motive and persona. His glances to the camera are few but intense, in contrary to his deceiving politeness and smiling eyes when in conversations with law enforcement and reporters. The editing of these old clips is very well-done, possibly colour corrected.

This series makes it clear that Bundy served as one of the first examples of a shifting stereotype on murderers – they can seem like regular people, even attractive and charming ones. The audience of this series, and his tapes, absorbs the feelings of people who have met him and his own delusions, until we feel like we know Bundy, and can see past his charming exterior.

We rate this documentary series a 4 out of 5, with a point taken away for aesthetic factors, including an unoriginal soundtrack. The movie about his life, starring Zac Efron, called ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’ was first shown at Sundance Film Festival. It is presented from the view of his girlfriend at the time, Elizabeth Kloepfer, and will be on Netflix, who bought first rights to it for nine million U.S. dollars.

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