Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman exists nowhere on the same level as previous film iterations we have been gifted, including Zac Efron and Luke Kirby as the lead character. This time around, Chad Michael Murray plays the serial killer as a hunky misunderstood creep that is more D-list horror movie than true crime thriller. Director Daniel Farrands seems to be focusing on horror-centric recaps of real life events at this stage in his career, with his newest two movies (The Haunting of Sharon Tate and The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson) serving as precursors to this silly and inaccurate depiction of Ted Bundy.
The opening scene is framed as a horror staple: the first kill. In 1974 Midvale, Utah, Ted pretends to be incapacitated, dropping his keys and playing vulnerable so a cute girl can swoop in ripe for the kidnapping. His plans are thwarted when her boyfriend drives by, and Ted must go for his second option: the girl’s helpless best friend. The rest of the film follows the journey of Ted Bundy’s savage kills (and various attempts) across Utah, pursued by Detective Kathleen McChesney (Holland Roden) and FBI agent Robert Ressler (Jake Hays).
Daniel Farrands is more interested in Chad Michael Murray making out with mannequins, rubbing knives across his abs, and drunkenly jerking off in a hotel room than he is in capturing an iota of truth in Bundy’s story. A cheesy speech tries to bring on the Psycho vibes with a psychoanalyst proclaiming “Theodore Bundy is the most dangerous individual I’ve ever observed.” The scene comes complete with silly ominous music, nearly too much to handle.
The sorority massacre is made into a big production, and the misstep is in thinking it is some vital horror set piece. The way this late-in-the-game sequence is structured is utterly tasteless, exploitative, and tension-free. I do not remember hearing about a detective bursting into the massacre to save the day…
The one bright spot is Lin Shaye’s appearance as—of course—Ted Bundy’s mother, who seems delightfully unhinged and convinced Ted was “conceived in hell.” If the rest of the film retained the tone of Shaye’s sparse scenes, it would be easy to recommend. Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman relies on the star power of Chad Michael Murray to carry its empty promises across the finish line. Unfortunately, the TV-movie feel is nearly inescapable. This newest Ted Bundy movie is mostly just dead on arrival.
Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman brings the killer to your doorstep when it debuts via Fathom Releasing nationwide on August 16th, followed by a VOD and DVD release on Friday, September 3rd.