JULY 20, 2008
A while back I watched Gacy, which was an interminably dull and largely inaccurate version of the John Gacy story. Needless to say, it didn’t inspire me to watch others in the loose “franchise”, but I must have queued Ted Bundy around the same time, and it finally came up on my list over the weekend. Luckily, it was better than Gacy, but it’s still a giant missed opportunity.
Giving credit where credit is due, they got a lot of the details right surrounding the murders (Bundy is one of the few killers I’ve actually read a book about, though I never read the final twenty pages because someone stole it from my desk. I assume... he dies in the chair). They also kept in some of the other, lesser known elements, such as his rampant kleptomania and sock fetishes. As director Matthew Bright points out in his commentary, it’s largely the media’s fault that Ted is often thought of as a charming, regular guy – he was actually an introvert with almost zero social skills.
But they got other shit wrong too. Like, you know, a goddamn techno song in 1974. I know it’s a low budget movie and they probably couldn’t afford Zep or even Jefferson Airplane, but for the love of Christ, techno? And it’s even sillier, because it’s in a scene with typical seventies dancing, so you get Ted doing the “grab his nose and go underwater” bit while we hear NTISS NTISS WOYOWOYOWOYOWOYOWOYO. Speaking of the music, the main theme in the film sounds stolen from Thin Red Line.
And it’s also largely lacking any suspense or even narrative drive. Ted kills someone, then he has a fight with his girlfriend Lee (a woman who should be committed herself for putting up with the shit Ted does to her in the film), then kills someone... etc. They don’t bother doing any of the sort of “WHY” bullshit you see in a lot of serial killer movies (fictional or not), but you start to wonder if maybe they should. After an hour or so, you still have no real grasp on Ted OR Lee, and they never bother to have the various victims do anything to stick out. The one exception is Tiffany Shepis. Obviously she sticks out because she’s not an unknown, but since she’s playing Carol DaRonch (one of the would-be victims who managed to escape Ted), her scene is a bit longer. Whether the real DaRonch was as stupid as she is portrayed here, I don’t know, but her reaction to Ted’s Volkswagen is worth the price of Netflixing the disc alone. And they have a funny fight when she tries to get away, it goes on for like two full minutes.
Ted is sentenced to Death Row with like 20 minutes to go, which led me to believe maybe they would work in some of the Green River Killer stuff that I actually find really interesting. But no, Bright makes the rather interesting choice of having a very long scene of Ted being prepped for the chair. First his head is shaved, and then his asshole is stuffed with cotton (I guess you shit yourself when you are shocked – good to know!). It’s a very cold and somewhat brutal sequence, and it’s like seeing Ted get payback for the shit he did to the poor girls before (and after) killing them. In fact, the actual execution is rather tame in comparison to the cotton up the ass stuff.
Unfortunately, there’s a big problem with this scene – no one has aged! It’s about 15 years after the beginning of the film, and Ted looks exactly the same, as does Leigh (another blunder of the film is never really putting Leigh in danger – even if you don’t know shit about Ted, you can probably assume that when he walks up to a random girl at the beach, she’s a goner. The girlfriend? Not so much.). That always bugs me in movies. Maybe because there’s no way in hell I look the same as I did 15 years ago so I’m just jealous.
As serial biopics go, you could do worse, but while they didn’t make much up, they also failed to really focus on the more compelling aspects of Bundy’s story. I was hoping the disc would have at least a small piece on the real Ted (even text based), but the only extra is Bright’s commentary, which is incredibly boring. He just sort of comments on the real Ted; “He really did drink.” “He really did work at a crisis center.”, never once explaining how he got involved with the film, what filming was like, etc. He never even introduces himself! Ebert’s commentaries for movies he simply happens to like are more engaging and informative than this. He also hilariously fucks up discussing poor Shepis: first he says her name wrong (Shepkist?) and then claims she is the wrestler Madison. Which she is not. He gets other stuff wrong too, so as a result, this may be the only commentary track ever recorded in which you will actually know LESS after listening to it. He also laughs and makes off-color jokes during some of the murders, so in short... the guy is kind of a tool.
What say you?