'Ted Bundy: American Psycho' Review: An Awful Movie About an Awful Man

Four Star Rating:
Starring: Chad Michael Murray, Holland Roden, Lin Shaye, Jake Hays, Olivia DeLaurentis, Diane Franklin, Marietta Melrose, Greer Grammer
Director: Daniel Farrands
Screenplay: Daniel Farrands
Producers: Luke Daniels
Music by: Steve Moore
Cinematographer: Luke Bazeli
Editor: Dan Riddle
Production Company: 1428 Films, Green Light Pictures
Distributed by: Fathom Events, Voltage Pictures
Genre: Thriller/Horror
Rated: TV-MA, Coarse Language, Scary Scenes, Nudity, Sexual Violence, Smoking, Mature Content
Release Date:  August 16, 2021
Run Time: 96 minutes

I have accepted that 'based on true event' pictures are stuffed with fiction or significantly alter facts for the sake of entertainment or to further highlight the ideas, themes, and messages of the movie. My only issue is when the alterations make for a more formulaic or generic movie than if they stuck with the more interesting facts. With the rise of true crime entertainment, I also have some discomfort with scripted movies about real life serial killers, because there is always a risk it will glorify a horrible human being while making the victims nothing more than plot points or pawns for a visceral moment.

There are great movies based on serial killers like David Fincher's Zodiac, and Spike Lee's Son of Sam, but they aren't really about the killers but rather the impact and toll the crimes have on individuals and society. Plus, they are crafted by true auteurs that construct a compelling story with several things to say. Ted Bundy: American Psycho (or in the States goes by Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman) is the exact opposite of those movies.

Director Daniel Farrands has a long history with horror. He is a credited screenwriter for Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, though he claims his screenplay was drastically rewritten by ghostwriters to lead to the mess that got released. He also directed documentaries on beloved slasher franchises Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street

His recent efforts have been far more disturbing as he has helmed horror and thrillers based on real life murders in The Haunting of Sharon Tate, The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson, and Aileen Wuornos: American Boogeywoman. Much like this feature, each have been heavily criticized for exploiting real-life tragedy to sell a horror flick.

In a time where movies are sold on brands and recognizable names, I understand why someone trying to get their work seen attaches the picture to something known in the mainstream. But there is something extra slimy about shoehorning in an infamous serial killer to gain recognition for a subpar and generic thriller and horror. They are attempting to make money off a tragedy committed by a despicable human.

Ted Bundy: American Psycho is a bad movie even if it was based on a fictional killer, but it spews out a garbage dump full of horrible by how it handles real murders. The picture is not the least bit interested in exploring the ramifications of the crimes or bothering to justify why there is yet another tale about one of history's most infamous killers. To add to the ickiness and shamefulness of the movie is that it often feels like the filmmakers have a reverence for the sick Ted Bundy, as it focuses most of the storytelling on elevating him into a mythological figure.

Sure, we get token investigators in Kathleen McChesny (played by Holland Roden) and Robert Ressler (played by Jake Hays) who are framed as the protagonists, but they spend large portions of the movie spitting out expository dialogue and pulling a Colonel Trautman by exhausting most of their screentime hyping up the elusive evil genius that is Bundy. McChesny's character development is straight out of thriller formula with her being motivated to get into the profession due to the loss of her sister and having to put up with a sexist cliche boss and his dimwitted trope son. Ressler doesn't even get that much development as he literally phones it in for most of the movie for more exposition dumps.

It doesn't help that everyone is straddled with cliche and generic dialogue where they're outright stating their personality, so the movie doesn't need to spend time on actual character development or they spell out the narrative to avoid creating actual scenes with characters doing something interesting. This means the performances have no passion and are often a painful endurance test. Even Lin Shaye is eye-rolling as the token mother of the killer who can see no wrong in her son with scenes that only seem to exist to get another known name in the cast.

Though the endless talking does give us a notable scene where the two agents coin the term 'serial killer' after watching a black and white Western (these are part of what were known as 'serials' with the story ending on a cliffhanger week to week). This made the creating of hit song scenes in Bohemian Rhapsody feel thoughtful and realistic.

Most of the energy is directed towards Chad Michael Murray's Bundy with large amounts of time devoted to showcasing how suave and charismatic he was supposed to be. It is clearly his movie as he is the only one who does anything with scenes about him trying to seduce neighbours, luring various victims, and doing riveting things like renting a room. 

Farrands tries to fool the viewer into thinking this is more than pure exploitation with an out of nowhere surreal dream sequence that may be an attempt to show Bundy's insanity, but it comes off as amateurish and pretentious with very little point. The minutes spent on the sequence reaffirms the emphasis is on the killer Bundy as the movie's focus rather than the victims or the agent out to catch him. 

The ineptness and tone deafness of the picture is embodied in the horribly mishandled and constructed final act. Throughout the picture, Bundy rattles on about how he believes he can become invisible and teleport himself, which would normally be a way to show he is delusional. But then Bundy ends up doing those very things during his murderous rampage through a sorority.

One could argue that Bundy was out of his mind believing he had superpowers, and the movie was trying to demonstrate how the narcissist perceived himself. The problem is the killings were real, even in the context of this movie, and he escapes the agents in plain sight, so we're left with only the option of believing this happened? It all adds to the sick and gross feeling that this movie is exalting him. They're trying to make him a supernatural iconic movie killer like Freddy Kreuger, Michael Myers, or Jason Voorhies, except they are fictional and he is a real-life monster that ruined countless lives.

The final act fails even without its supernatural depiction of Bundy, because it lacks any tension or proper pacing. It definitely fails to make you sympathize with the victims as its entirely framed by the acts of the psychopath. Like most of the movie, it is thriller formula snatched from much better movies but handled with a lack of creativity or energy. The movie is bland and lifeless.

It only gets any emotion from me because of the way it positively presents a horrible human being. Of course, it tries to cure and fix its message by acknowledging the real-life victims at the end, and detailing key events of the agents who tracked hum. It is never really about anything or anyone besides a despicable and deranged rapist and murderer. 

We're left baffled to what the movie is really trying to say, and why we needed yet another tale to immortalize Ted Bundy rather than acknowledge the countless priceless lives he ruined and stole.