For some odd reason, there is no shortage of Ted Bundy in recent films, the latest of which is Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman. The simple reason that Bundy is such a fascinating subject is the frightening dichotomy that he offers. Dashing good looks, a knack for manipulation, and unquestionable brutality. In American Boogeyman, writer-director Daniel Farrands brings little to the subject aside from a mildly entertaining diversion. Chad Michael Murray stars as the titular monster doing a fine job of being charismatic with an undercurrent of danger yet something is amiss. This iteration of the Bundy story is a glossy ‘Silence of the Lambs’ style movie without the resonance.
At the center of the story is Kathleen McChesney (Holland Roden). A Seattle cop who is fending off nepotistic advancements in the ranks while attempting to teach them a thing or two. As the Bundy case drones on, FBI agent Robert Ressler (Jake Hays) arrives on the scene to pick up local intel. McChesney and Ressler connect in their mutual desire to capture Bundy and their bond is forged from a desire for justice. We cut from their story back to Bundy and is killing spree. Farrands‘s spends a bit of time exploring Bundy’s technique in exploiting the good nature of his victims. In one instance Bundy feigns disability and asks for help picking up keys. In another Bundy poses as a police officer trying to solve a car break-in. This is all interesting and, adequately played. It fills us in but hardly draws us in.
The film opens with a title explaining that certain liberties have been taken to hide the identities of the innocent or to heighten the drama. This is actually pretty admirable considering that the classic, ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ skated off with itself being regarded as a true story while hardly being anything like what it was based on. But this admission sets up doubt in the viewer that could only be won over by a winning story and characters we connect with. Neither materializes entirely.
I need to point out the good here as there is a bit of it. While Murray looks absolutely NOTHING like the fiend he portrays he pulls it off enough for us to buy it. The dude is sexy. Roden is a fine McChesney paired with Hays as Ressler. The two actually work well together and convey a certain professional comradery and respect that is a nice touch. That’s not to mention horror icon Lin Shaye who portrays Bundy’s delusional, aging mother. I will also give props to Farrands who attempts to stylize the world and story of Bundy while hoping to rationalize it to some degree. The somber, melodramatic beats push it into parody and do more harm than good.
Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman is not the definitive cinematic capture for the vile serial killer that was Ted Bundy. I’m not entirely sure that there will be one. What I can say is that this film put the emphasis on the right people; the victims and the people trying to bring justice to a world gone mad. It’s just too bad that the introspective moments in Bundy’s mind never really click.
5 out of 10