Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by The Movie Partnership
Written and directed by Daniel Farrands
2021, 110 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Released on 6th December 2021
Chad Michael Murray as Ted Bundy
Holland Roden as Kathleen McChesney
Jake Hays as Robert Ressler
Lin Shaye as Mrs. Bundy
A true crime biopic starring a former teen heartthrob as serial killer Ted Bundy. No, not that biopic, and not that teen heartthrob, either. Chad Michael Murray (House of Wax, Freaky Friday, One Tree Hill) is Theodore Robert Bundy – the notorious serial killer, stalking and strangling his way across 1970s America; Kathleen McChesney (Holland Roden) and Robert Ressler (Jake Hays) the FBI agents doggedly tracking the monster.
Like 2019’s Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, and David Fincher's Zodiac, this heavily dramatized biopic keeps the full extent of Bundy’s atrocities unseen. The film follows Bundy as he stalks and selects his victims, but thankfully shies away from the horrible violence which follows the initial kidnapping. Lurid as American Boogeyman is – and it is lurid – writer and director Daniel Farrands knows when to exercise restraint. Is this out of a sense of sympathy for Bundy’s very real victims? Or simply a desire to avoid excess controversy? One can’t be sure, but at least it’s less gross than his Charles Manson movie, The Haunting of Sharon Tate.
Where the 2019 Bundy biopic treated Zac Efron’s Ted Bundy as a bit of a doofus, American Boogeyman imagines the serial killer as a looming, relentless Michael Myers type. Much has been made of Bundy's supposed good looks, and this one is so good looking as to barely resemble Bundy at all. The chisel-jawed Murray is certainly imposing, but the script and story don't give him much to chew on. Cinematographer Luka Bazeli shoots the film like a Halloween sequel – long, foreboding establishing shots, creaking doors and floorboards, and lots of jump scares. Liberties are taken as the film enters its final stretch, with Bundy invading a sorority house, McChesney hot on his trail, doing her best Sam Loomis impression.
Disconnected from reality, American Boogeyman is a perfectly serviceable serial killer thriller. It looks and sounds good (with a thudding, ominous, Saw-like score), and Murray is a convincing presence as the rapidly unravelling serial killer. It even has Lin Shaye popping up with the genre bona fides, as Bundy’s sister mother. Were it completely divorced from Bundy, people might have reason to complain about the story's lack of structure and resolution, but production values are high and its atmosphere is one of sustained dread.
But the film doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and its terrible reality leaves a sour aftertaste. With nothing new to say about the killer or his crimes – other than the things it makes up – it reeks of exploitation, cashing in on the Netflix obsession with true crime and Ted Bundy. There's no deep-dive into the psychology of a serial killer, and the FBI agents who pursue him are so underdeveloped that they might as well not even be there. It’s frustratingly competent, predictably exploitative and surprisingly mild. But why, though?
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