Not all heroes wear capes and not all murderers look like monsters — a theme beaten to death in “Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,” a Netflix docuseries released last Thursday about notorious serial killer Ted Bundy.
The Netflix docuseries was released on the 30th anniversary of Bundy’s electric chair execution in 1989. Director Joe Berlinger’s main selling point is the 100 hours of deconstructed taped prison conversations between journalists Stephen Michaud, Hugh Aynesworth and Bundy himself. But as the episodes drag on, the series mostly follows the trail of carnage Bundy left as he proceeded to rape and brutally murder over 30 young women across a number of states in the U.S. Combined with these tapes, modern day interviews and old grainy TV footage, this true crime story had the potential to be something special, but missed the mark.
It is important to note the title of the series is misleading. The tapes presented resemble less of a conversation between Bundy, Michaud and Aynesworth and moreso a pseudo-psychological monologue delivered by Bundy. Michaud gets Bundy to speak about the chain of murders in the third person to trick him into a confession. This begins as an engaging narrative but soon trails off into a grandiose and abstract psycho-analysis of the killings and the killer’s life. Almost as soon as Bundy becomes an interesting case of human evil, he becomes annoying. Bundy always talks about himself and anything but the case, and it is aggravating to watch over and over again.
Berlinger could’ve saved his series by veering off the trail of information anyone with a computer can find on Wikipedia. Other than the tapes, Berlinger does not present anything new and recycles information of the events and investigation. Berlinger misses a huge opportunity to craft a more unique narrative by failing to provide more perspectives of those not involved in the criminal proceedings.
The series has its fair share of chilling moments. A scene where Bundy probes the witness of an investigator to describe a crime scene in unnecessary detail leaves a pit feeling in the stomach. Another scene soon after reveals many young women attending his court hearing and features interviews that reveal their fascination and infatuation with him. Many wrote notes to him and asked Bundy’s defense lawyer to pass them along. Even the judge expressed sympathy toward Bundy after delivering his death sentence. These scenes show firsthand accounts of how his charm influenced people apart from the repetitive interviews of people just talking about it. Unfortunately, scenes like these are few and far in between.
Die-hard true crime fans will enjoy the thrill Berlinger tries to bring to the table. However, just as Bundy never fulfilled his appetite for murder, most viewers may never feel satisfied as they trudge through each episode to get to the end.
“Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes”