Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman Movie Review
Written by Sean M. Sanford
Released by Dark Star Pictures
Written and directed by Daniel Farrands
2021, 110 minutes, Not Rated
Released on August 16th, 2021
Chad Michael Murray as Ted Bundy
Holland Roden as Kathleen McChesney
Jake Hays as Robert Ressler
Lin Shaye as Mrs. Bundy
As kids, we learn of monsters hiding beneath the bed, in the closet, and just about anywhere else that is apt to don darkness. As we mature, beginning to shrug the omnipresent grasp of our elders, our boogeymen evolve. They take on more tangible forms, like in the nightly news and obituary’s incidentals; faces stamped on the grocer’s bulletin board beneath a grim yet simple proclamation: WANTED.
I once heard of a woman who came into contact with one of these monsters. It was the ‘70s and she was approached by a man driving a Volkswagen Bug. He asked for her help and she denied him, being on alert after a series of kidnappings and murders. She learned the next day that a woman her age was murdered that night, and the man who had spoken to her, was likely the killer: a man named Ted Bundy.
Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman tells us the story of one of these monsters, a monster who once resided not beneath anyone’s bed so much as the guise of a charming man who needs help. Ted Bundy wasn’t a figure from youthful lore, but a real man who hunted the streets through most of the 1970s. He manipulated young women, all of whom bore similar characteristics (young, pretty, with long hair parted down the middle), before stealing them away to the shadows where he would rape and mutilate them. He confessed to killing 30 women, but some have estimated his total to be over 100.
This movie does a good job depicting Ted Bundy as exactly what he was: a human monster. It also illustrates the culture of the ‘70s, and sadly still today, which victimized women and made it easy to disbelieve those who knew they were being targeted.
Kathleen McChesney was of the very first women to wear a police officer’s badge in the state of Washington during the freshman years of Bundy’s bloodshed. The movie illustrates the environment she was facing as a detective, as those around her, all of whom were men, never took her or her skills seriously. The movie does well to pair the sexism being demonstrated behind the mask of societal norms to that orchestrated in outright deadly terms via Ted Bundy. Not to mention the grim truth of men on the police force who do a poor job pretending they’re concerned with catching a violent sexual predator. It does this by equally alternating back and forth between McChesney’s hunt for the killer and Bundy himself as he goes to various parts of the country to exact his spree.
Beyond the parallels of sexism, the way the movie is constructed does well to show all sides of the story, from the evil mind of Bund to the hopeful youth on whom he prays to the hunting efforts of McChesney and FBI agent Robert Rossler. Even down to Ted Bundy’s mother, who has her own styles of delusion.
The style of the movie subtly calls back to the cinematic ambiance from when it takes place, using colors and camera angles that reminded me of a few bellbottomed slashers. It’s no The House of the Devil-grade throwback, but still pays homage.
As tough as the subject-matter is to watch at times, I enjoyed this movie. It does a great job getting into the experience of being alive at that time, and the terror that was being felt around a horrifying and dominant man who could very well be someone who lives down the street, or even in your same building. Some of the acting feels a little bit Summer Camp Talent Show at times, but most of the actors shine during the more dramatic scenes. And it sufficed to urge me to check under the couch after getting up for more popcorn.
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