“Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” Review
On Jan. 24, exactly 30 years after Bundy was executed, Netflix released a four-part documentary series, directed by Emmy Award winner Joe Berlinger, “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.”
The series is based on the book by the same title written by Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth, the journalists, who recorded over 100 hours of interviews with America's most notorious serial killer while he was incarcerated.
The recordings of the tapes are used as a voice-over as personal photos, footage of 1970s news coverage, and police evidence are shown on screen. Between those photos and videos are interviews with Bundy’s psychologist from prison, a survivor recalls her encounter with him, and friends and family members remember him and how they never thought he could kill.
Instead of seeing personal photos and old news coverage of the crimes and trials, I would have preferred Bundy’s recordings to be used as the voice-over while actors play out what he was saying to keep the audience more interested.
Throughout the series, journalists Michaud and Aynesworth recall their experiences throughout the many conversations and meetings with Bundy in the Florida State Prison.
“Well, I don’t want to talk about that right now” (S1:E1 “Handsome Devil”).
Bundy begins the series of interviews by discussing his dreams and aspirations as a young man near Seattle and shies away from talking about his crimes for months. Eventually, Michaud and Aynesworth convince Bundy to refer to himself in the third person in order to get him to talk about his crimes. Bundy “plays along” and when he begins to describe his state of mind during his killings it was frightening yet fascinating to see the mindset of a sociopath.
“I think we can say that he--he felt almost as if he was immune from detection, as if he were in a dimension that he just kind of, like, could walk through doors. That he had some supernatural powers. That no matter how much he fucked up, nothing could go wrong,” (S1:E2 “Not My Turn to Watch Him”).
I believe that the series was able to portray Bundy’s narcissism spot-on. He was a good-looking guy who used charm and charisma to lure young women and believed that he could get away with anything.
Director Joe Berlinger is known for producing and directing true crime documentaries, and there is no surprise that he also directed “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”, a biopic from the perspective of Bundy’s longtime girlfriend who refused to believe he murdered over 30 women. The biopic will be released later this year and stars Zac Efron as Ted Bundy and Lily Collins as Elizabeth Kloepfer, Bundy’s girlfriend during his killing spree.
Since Berlinger is the director of “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”, I recommend that viewers watch this Netflix documentary series for additional background information on the serial killer before watching Efron’s interpretation on the big screen.
For audience members who are true crime enthusiasts like myself, I strongly discourage watching the documentary series. There have been many documentary films and series about Bundy in the past, and Netflix's version isn’t different from the rest. This series does not introduce new evidence, there are no narrative twists, no miscarriages of justice , nor are there scandals of corrupt policemen or judges. In actuality it is a four-hour long series of Bundy revealing his inner thoughts.
Lastly, I do not recommend anyone to binge all four episodes in one night. If anyone were to watch it, I strongly encourage that they watch it at their own pace. There is a lot on information being presented and there are gruesome descriptions and photos of the crime scenes. Not only that, but hearing Bundy’s real voice throughout the episodes can be unsettling to hear or watch.