Filmmaker Daniel Farrands has taken numerous real-life tragedies and turned them into what basically amounts to a blend of genre and movie of the week filmmaking. Disingenuous, arguably distasteful, and possibly even despicable, his newest film Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman is, like much of the rest of his filmography, a watchable mess nevertheless.
The thing about Farrands’s movies that is so shocking is that everyone involved seems to think they are paying their respects to the victims of these horrific crimes, whereas in reality, everything is in extremely bad taste. The idea of making a slasher movie out of the Chi Omega murders even sounds ill-informed on paper, so how it made it onto the screen is baffling.
In terms of themes, the film says the same thing as almost every procedural drama that has ever been made. And the wooden dialogue as written by Farrands leaves no room for interpretation, shoving a grade-school explanation of good and evil based in a rudimentary understanding of history down the viewer’s throat.
There have been so many movies about Bundy, especially in recent years, and while it is refreshing to see one that doesn’t attempt to psychoanalyze the serial killer and explain away his actions, using the cop investigating him as the protagonist was an underwhelming and safe choice. This makes it clear that Farrands really doesn’t care much about the victims.
The performances in the film are weak all-around. Since Bundy has been represented on screen so many times before, it’s hard to get a truly original performance out of the role. Farrands’s weak direction probably didn’t help, but Chad Michael Murray’s turn feels like an imitation of an imitation. But when Farrands couldn’t even get a strong performance out of horror queen Lin Shaye, what could be expected?
Farrands’s understanding of cinematic language is borderline incompetent. The production values of the movie are slightly higher than the average made-for-television picture, although Farrands’s frequently bizarre choices threaten to undermine it even further. An absolutely terrible synth score comes to mind as an immediate example.
Still, this is one of those movies that is so woefully misguided that one can’t help but enjoy it. It’s a film made outside of the system, seemingly without oversight or fact-checkers to serve as a voice of reason for a filmmaker who barely knows what he’s doing. This symphony of out-of-tune pieces comes together into an appealing dissonance that few movies are able to achieve.
Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman certainly isn’t a good film, and likely won’t even be enjoyed by the typically easily-satisfied true crime fanbase. However, Daniel Farrands seems destined to earn a cult following among the likes of Uwe Boll in the hall of cinematic infamy.
Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman screens in theaters for one night only on August 16 followed by a VOD release on September 3.