MAY 20, 2009
Having already watched Ted Bundy, I wasn’t really expecting much out of Bundy: A Legacy Of Evil. I knew the story, read one of the books, plus I had seen the ORIGINAL Bundy film, Deliberate Stranger, when I was a kid. But surprisingly, Bundy is actually above average in the land of DTV serial killer movies, with a great lead performance from Corin Nemec to boot.
Now, I can’t recall enough about Mark Harmon’s performance to judge, or compare to Nemec’s, but I do know this: only one of these men have been voted the "Sexiest Man Alive". And the guy in Ted Bundy played him as a complete loon. Nemec, I think, perfectly nails the balance. He’s a handsome fella, but he’s a bit off, like he’s afraid to speak or trying too hard to fit in. This, as I understand from the book I read, is what Ted was like, and it’s nice to see it depicted accurately. Kane Hodder also delivers a surprisingly strong performance, though his role (a sympathetic warden) should have been thread throughout the film instead of just bookending it.
Another surprise was how non-violent the film was. There is very little on-screen violence, with only one of Ted’s attacks depicting the physical violence on the victim’s person. The others settle for Ted swinging away, but not showing the contact. Also, the “Good Samaritan” type of kills (when Ted would kill a girl who offered to help him with his books or his sailboat) are presented in a montage, again with almost zero on-screen violence. It’s refreshing.
However, the film as a whole carries the strange stigma of being inaccessible to those who aren’t familiar with the Bundy story. If you had never heard of the guy or what he did, this movie would be the last place I would start. Even Ted Bundy, with its nonsensical anachronisms and borderline comedic tone, painted a better overall picture of the guy and his crimes. Very little here seems made up or changed (though I don’t recall anything about Ted kidnapping a woman and bringing her to a deserted shack, where he would psychologically torture her), but it’s presented in a very loose manner. Here’s the time Ted escaped from jail; here’s Ted working with the future governor; here’s Ted killing the girls at the sorority, etc. I knew how all this stuff fit together, but the writer/director should not expect everyone in the audience to know those things. As a result, I’m not entirely sure what the overall point of the film is. Am I supposed to feel bad for Ted? Some scenes suggest I should. But then they also include the (true) part of Ted’s trial where he made a cop describe the murder scene in graphic detail for his own amusement, which would kill anyone’s sympathy, I would think.
But here’s the kicker. The film’s final shot faded away, and I said “OK, well, maybe once I know who wrote and/or directed this, my questions will be answered.” And then it appeared: “Written and Directed by Michael Feifer.” Feifer? The arch-nemesis of Horror Movie A Day? The man behind three of what I consider to be among the all-time worst horror films I’ve had to review? Yep, same guy. So if anything, this didn’t help at all, because now not only do I have questions about the film’s intent, I also wonder if this guy (who has several other serial killer movies on his resume) actually does have an ounce or two of talent in his body. Was this movie a fluke, or did I happen to watch his three worst movies? Or are Nemec, Hodder, the DP, the production designer (the 70s wardrobe is spot on, though they kind of botch it during a San Francisco scene, as all the extras are in modern clothing), and the composer (I LOVED the music in this movie) all so good that the lack of filmmaker talent has no effect on their respective duty? It is a mystery.
(The DVD will include Feifer’s commentary, but my screener did not have it. Maybe that some answers.)
So if you have more than a general understanding of the Ted Bundy story, this is definitely recommended. Nemec delivers a terrific performance that should not be missed. Unfortunately, if you only know Bundy by his name alone, then that performance won’t mean too much beyond “Hey, Parker Lewis can act!” (incidentally, this is Nemec’s second serial killer role - he also played Richard Speck in Chicago Massacre. Also, he played Stephen in I Know My First Name Is Stephen and appeared in another DTV movie about the Boston Strangler. Big true crime buff, I guess).
What say you?