You’ll be­lieve that dishy Zac can get away with mur­der

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Ex­tremely Wicked, Shock­ingly Evil, And Vile (15) Ver­dict: Flawed but fas­ci­nat­ing The Curse Of La Llorona (15) Ver­dict: Fairly ef­fi­cient chiller

LILY COLLINS has the star­tling dis­tinc­tion in this week’s re­leases of play­ing the girl­friend of both J.R.R. Tolkien (see Tolkien re­view above) and the U.S. se­rial killer Ted Bundy.

But the more in­ter­est­ing cast­ing in Ex­tremely Wicked, Shock­ingly Evil, And Vile is that of for­mer High School Mu­si­cal heart­throb Zac Efron as Bundy him­self.

Efron has given co­pi­ous in­ter­views to ex­plain why he took the role and how he doesn’t think it glam­or­ises its sub­ject, in which re­spect I think he’s prob­a­bly right; Bundy still emerges from the film as a twisted, nar­cis­sis­tic psy­chopath.

But Efron brings the dishy looks and elo­quent charm to show how he got away with his crimes for so long (he was ex­e­cuted in 1989, hav­ing con­fessed to killing 30 women, but is thought to have mur­dered as many as 100), and why he at­tracted what can only be de­scribed as groupies even to his trial. It was there, in­ci­den­tally, that the judge (played with stud­ied ec­cen­tric­ity by John Malkovich) ut­tered the words that give this film its sin­gu­lar ti­tle.

Mer­ci­fully, al­though made by a doc­u­men­tary-maker, Joe Ber­linger, it does not show us in any de­tail how his be­hav­iour ac­quired such a de­scrip­tion.

Yet by not ex­plain­ing where the roots of Bundy’s evil lay, it leaves us with only a lim­ited un­der­stand­ing of him.

It pur­ports to tell his story through the eyes of his girl­friend Liz (Collins), whom Bundy ma­nip­u­lated into be­liev­ing his in­no­cence even af­ter he was in cus­tody, with the ev­i­dence pil­ing up around him.

How­ever, the in­escapable fact is that she’s not nearly as in­ter­est­ing a char­ac­ter as he is.

The film only re­ally ex­erts a grip when Efron is on screen, hinting at the ter­ri­ble de­prav­ity that lurks be­neath the twinkly charisma.

It’s a mod­er­ate fea­ture, but a very good per­for­mance.

THERE’S an­other se­rial killer at large in The Curse Of La Llorona, but this one hails from the 17th cen­tury and only kills chil­dren.

The story is rooted in ac­tual Mexican folk­lore: ev­i­dently, a woman in 1673 was so dis­tressed to find her husband hav­ing an af­fair that she pun­ished him by drown­ing their two off­spring.

Then, nat­u­rally, she roamed the cen­turies at­tract­ing chil­dren with her weep­ing, and drowned them to re­place her own.

All of which brings us to Los An­ge­les 300 years later, where a so­cial worker called Anna (Linda Cardellini) gets mixed up in the case of a Mexican im­mi­grant whose two sons have been tar­geted by the dreaded La Llorona, putting Anna’s own two chil­dren at ap­palling risk.

Part of The Con­jur­ing fran­chise of hor­ror films, this is a pretty stan­dard chiller with the usual reper­toire of creak­ing doors, crack­ing mir­rors, spooky dolls and blasts of wind.

What lifts it above the hum­drum is Cardellini, so often cast as a more im­por­tant char­ac­ter’s spouse — Jeremy Ren­ner’s in Endgame, Viggo Mortensen’s in Green Book — but here show­ing that she can command the spot­light, too.

Mon­ster: Efron as Bundy

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