The 2021 film, Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman, is yet another film about the life and crimes of America’s first celebrity serial killer, Ted Bundy.
In this particular film, Bundy is played as being a handsome nonentity by Chad Michael Murray. The film follows Bundy as he moves from Seattle to Utah to Colorado and eventually to Florida, leaving a path of death in his wake. Investigating his crimes are Seattle Detective Kathleen McChesney (Holland Roden) and FBI profiler Robert Ressler (Jake Hays). McChesney not only has to track down Bundy but she also has to deal with her sexist police chief and his idiot son, both of whom think that Bundy’s victims are to blame.
Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman is the latest true crime horror film to be directed by Daniel Farrands. The frustrating thing about Farrands is that, if you can overlook the subject matter of his recent films, he’s actually a talented horror director who knows how to create suspense and who can be counted on to come up with at least one effective jump scare in all of his films. That said, he keeps making films that are almost impossible to defend because they exploit real-life tragedy. Farrands’s best film, The Haunting of Sharon Tate, worked because of Hilary Duff’s committed performance in the title role and the fact that the film itself was fully on Tate’s side. However, Farrands’s The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson was a tacky piece of exploitation that, despite Farrands’s strong visuals, appeared to have little compassion for the woman whose murder served as the film’s inspiration.
Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman is neither as effective as The Haunting of Sharon Tate nor as bad as The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson. For the most part, the film plays loose with the facts of the case. At one point, McChesney even shows up at one of Bundy’s crime scenes and takes a shot at him as he flees. (Tarantino also played around with history in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood but, by allowing Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio to kill the members of the Mason family, he also allowed their victims to live. Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman, on the other hand, is willing to change history to allow McChesney to arrive at the crime scene but it’s not willing to change history to allow any of Bundy’s victims to survive. It’s hard not to feel that the film would have benefitted from following Tarantino’s approach and allowing Bundy’s victims to beat him to death.) There are a few odd scenes in which Bundy is showing fondling several mannequins. The scenes appear to pay homage to William Lustig’s Maniac but again, it doesn’t seem to be based on anything the actual Bundy did. The film hints at the intriguing idea of Ted Bundy being America’s first celebrity serial killer but it doesn’t really follow up on it. The whole thing feels rushed and rather icky. It certainly doesn’t add any insight into Bundy or killers in general.
That said, our longtime readers know that I hate to end on a totally negative note so I will say that the film uses its low budget to its advantage. The sparse sets and the small cast give the film something of a surreal feel, with Bundy as an evil specter who randomly shows up to haunt the dreams of a nation. Lin Shaye and Diane Franklin appear in small roles. Franklin plays a distraught mom who asks McChesney to kill Bundy rather than arrest him. Shaye plays Bundy’s overprotective mother and gives a nicely creepy performance. As I said earlier, it’s not so much that the film is badly made as the subject matter is so icky and the script is so bereft of any new insight that most viewers will wonder why the film needed to be made at all.