Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes

Illustration by Shannon DeLurio

By Chris Butcher

Netflix’s original crime biopic is a chilling reminder that we don’t need fictional horror films when real life is already just as terrifying.

Through archival footage and present-day interviews, the series details the life of Theodore Robert “Ted” Bundy, infamous serial killer, rapist and necrophile who brutishly kidnapped and murdered over 30 young women across the United States between 1974 – 1978.

Director Joe Berlinger crafted a chronological narrative around 100 plus hours of recorded interviews between journalist Stephen Michaud and Bundy as he awaited death row.

These tapes are without question the most unsettling element of the series, as they explore expanded glimpses into the grotesque psyche of a predatory executioner. The narcissism in Bundy’s tone makes your skin crawl as he takes pleasure in relieving the final moments between himself and his victims.

It was Michaud’s intent to dupe Bundy into a confession while compiling information on him for a book he was writing. However, this proved to be no easy task as Bundy avoids specific details and provides trivial ramblings, all while maintaining his innocence throughout the majority of the recorded audio.

Though interviews from people who were most close to Bundy, Michaud built this characterization of a mundane, fun loving, family man who is simply incapable of enacting harm to others, interviews from detectives, criminologists and psychological experts provide insight into how Bundy dove headfirst into madness.

The professional opinion of these experts is that killers like Bundy will latch on to the normal aspects of their personas to distract themselves from violent tendencies billowing inside of them.

It is fair to say that Bundy’s story has been told so many times that it almost makes this series mute. Does a monster like him really deserve to be overanalyzed?

Instead of making the mistake of putting Bundy on a pedestal as this charming and methodical killer, Berlinger focuses on how his ego was his downfall, and honors the people who brought him to justice.

The tapes are just the beginning of Berlinger’s exploration into Bundy’s story. Netflix recently acquired his newest feature length film “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile” which stars Zac Efron as Bundy. The movie is scheduled to be released in theaters and Netflix in late 2019.

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