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Bundy: A Legacy of Evil (aka Bundy: An American Icon)

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // July 21, 2009
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted June 30, 2009 | E-mail the Author
Normally, I hope the movies I end up watching will be good, but while subjecting myself to Bundy: A Legacy of Evil, another in a long line of questionable direct-to-DVD "true life" serial killer movies (most of which are undoubtedly not good), I found myself desperately wishing the movie was actually better at being awful. The film hits all of Hollywood's terrible "serial killer" bases with the absolute bare minimum of enthusiasm, limply attempting to get the audience to invest some emotional interest in Corin Nemec's portrayal of the infamous murderer, but even with a marked improvement about halfway through, its inability to settle on a point about its subject robs it of a point or purpose. With a little more verve, it might have been entertaining in a late-night-cable kind of way, but it ends up being a meandering waste.

After a brief prologue, we dive right into the worst parts of the movie, which show us Ted as an unhappy kid in a broken home and his shy but otherwise normal existence as a college student, meeting and dating Stephanie (Jen Nikolaisen), who eventually dumps him over a missed dinner date with the folks and tells him to grow up. For many folks, nothing ruins a serial killer like dime-store psychoanalysis, but the problem with the material in Bundy is that it just seems lazy. We barely get to know the Bundy family members any more than we know the movie's extras, and Stephanie's anger towards the version of Ted presented by the movie seems totally unprovoked. Eventually Ted gets to killing, at which point the movie improves a bit. There are better slasher movies to watch, but for awhile, Bundy is adequate, I suppose. On the other hand, it feels mildly exploitational to recommend a movie based on a true-life string of murders to gorehounds, so I don't know what to say.

The main problem throughout the entire movie is the script and direction by Michael Feifer. Feifer clearly has some vision for the movie, but he's often hampered by budget, sorely unoriginal or unsure of what he really wants to accomplish. One sequence in particular sums up most of these issues all by itself: a drunk Bundy speeds down a road, throwing bottles out the window and stopping to piss, and is eventually pulled over by a rude cop who searches Bundy's vehicle and arrests him. Not only is it extremely clear that the exact consecutive shot of the road is the exact same stretch of land, but it's hard to tell why the scene is in the movie, other than Ted's arrest being an important event. While the officer searches the car, is there supposed to be tension building, and if so, why? Are we worried about Bundy or the cop? And why is the cop rude? I've seen so many rude cops in movies, it'd be impossible to remember even half of them. Maybe he suspects that Bundy's up to something, but it isn't clear.

Feifer also makes a number of slightly baffling directorial choices. After Stephanie dumps Bundy, he vents by dropping his books and yelling a little, during which Feifer awkwardly throws in some arbitrary freeze frames and jump cuts. There are occasional flashbacks to the tormented childhood, seemingly thrown in at random. Strange changes are made to true events; at one point Stephanie and Bundy reconcile, and he proposes to her in a restaurant. In real life, Bundy eventually dumped her and stopped returning her calls, but for whatever reason, Feifer condenses the story by having Bundy go to the bathroom and never come back. There's also some timeline confusion: some scenes have dates, and others don't, and at one point I wasn't sure if I already knew the character Bundy was killing. The script also has some fascination with reminding the audience who the movie is about; a hilarious drinking game should be formed around every time any character (including Ted) says "Ted Bundy".

Corin Nemec seems like an alright actor, but his performance as Bundy is wildly uneven. He's got the more charismatic side down pat, but when his Bundy goes into a murderous rage, occasionally it verges on Jim Carrey-level mugging, his face contorting as he smacks victims with baseball bats and trembles with sadness. The decision for the 38-year-old Nemec (probably 36 when the movie was shot) to portray the college-age Bundy was also a poor choice, as no amount of hairstyling can erase the creases in the actor's face. Everyone else is pretty poor, except for Kane Hodder, who most fans will recognize played Jason Voorhees in five Friday the 13th films, and who most fans will also recognize as having about seven minutes of screen time in the whole movie despite second billing on the DVD cover.

After maybe a 20-minute stretch of mildly entertaining madness, an awkward court scene gives way to a truly poor finale. The day before his execution, Bundy muses about why he did what he did, attempting to shift the blame onto others, but Kane Hodder's warden is having none of it. "Society?" he scoffs. "You became so demented because of you. You made every choice along the way. You could have stopped any time, but you didn't. You're not mental. You're not deranged." Nice try, but the other 80 minutes of the movie have been actively disagreeing. You can't have your cake and eat it too. It's hard to make movies about serial killers, especially real ones, because it's hard to imagine why someone would do something so horrible. Bundy wants to pose a lot of questions about its subject, but it only presents one: if serial killing is awful, why do the movies keep trying to give us a killer we can understand?

The DVD, Video and Audio
Lionsgate sent a screener over with altered, but still boring final artwork that looks like any number of direct-to-video serial killer movies. The version on my screener is compressed and occasionally switches to black and white with a Lionsgate watermark and the audio is 2.0 stereo, so I've got no comment on the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation or the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio that should be included on the final product. The disc will also ultimately include Spanish subtitles, although no subtitles were present here. The altered packaging displays no closed captioning symbol nor lists English subs as being included.

The Extras
The final product will pack a "director's commentary" and stills gallery, but neither are on my screener (it doesn't even have a menu).

Unless you're playing my wonderful drinking game, you should skip it. I'm sure if you want to know about Bundy you could learn more from the Wikipedia article anyway.

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