As a true crime aficionado and fangirl, the idea that a Ted Bundy  documentary would be coming to Netflix excited me to no end. I knew a  lot about Bundy from previous readings and podcasts, but these taped  recordings were an exclusive that I’d never even heard of before. Conversations with a Killer is  a documentary focusing on the life of Ted Bundy, partially told by  Bundy himself, which begins with the story of Bundy requesting to speak  with a journalist in order to tell his side of the story and clear his  name.

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The documentary features tapes of Ted Bundy talking about his  childhood — he takes his time before he gets into the murders. The  reporter who was responsible for taping the interviews, Stephen Michaud,  had to come up with a way to get Bundy, a textbook narcissist, to  discuss the murders, which is the real beef of the interviews. So  Michaud decided to ask him what he thinks happened. This approach gave  Bundy a level of power and let him think that Michaud wanted his genius  point of view, which got him talking. Bundy tells the stories of the  murders from the point of view of the killer. This information is  mentioned in the documentary but barely given airtime.

At one point, an interview with Bundy’s kidnapping survivor really  draws you in. Carol Daronch tells the story of being kidnapped by Bundy,  and then the story of how she escaped. Bundy is said to have killed  another woman, Debra Jean Kent, very shortly after Daronch escaped,  which makes her story all the more thrilling. This was an amazing  directorial choice, seeing a living victim who can tell a story rather  than just police-assumed retellings creates a connection between viewers  and the story. The emotion in the voice of someone who lived through  such an event leaves a much larger impact than just hearing the story  from a third party. 

Similarly, Bundy’s mother, Louise, is shown pleading for her son’s  life. She states that she, nor the rest of Bundy’s family and friends,  believe that he is possible of such heinous crimes. She does interviews  with the press asking that people reconsider their thoughts and  insisting that her son is innocent. The pain in her eyes speaks a  million words. Much like an interview with a Bundy survivor, this adds  depth to the documentary because of the raw emotion, she thinks her son,  her baby, is going to prison for doing nothing. It’s almost painful to  watch.

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Despite a number of interesting interviews, this documentary lacked  in many areas for being a four-hour endeavor. It never discusses Bundy’s  reasoning for picking his victims, like their generally similar  characteristics. The documentary also focuses very little on the actual  tapes of Bundy talking and instead relies on interviews with  journalists, police officers, and people that knew Bundy. This makes the  title misleading. I went in assuming that there would be mostly  recordings of Bundy telling the stories of the murders. This was  especially disappointing because there are approximately 100 hours of  recordings of Bundy telling his stories. Out of hundreds of hours of  recordings, we probably heard, at maximum, an hour of Bundy talking.  Calling a documentary “The Ted Bundy Tapes” implies far more interviews  with Bundy and far fewer interviews with other people. These factors do  help make the story better by providing input and points of view from  different sources, but they don’t add to the validity of the title.

This documentary did one thing well though; it showed Ted Bundy as  both a monster and a (quite literal) lady killer. Although Bundy was on  trial for the rapes and murders of college-aged women, many women in  that age group showed up to his trial every day and stared at him in  awe. As the prosecution and defense are going over the details of the  case, women can be seen in the background gazing at Bundy. There are  even interviews where women say that he’s so charming, and they don’t  believe he has the eyes of a killer. He could convince and connive his  way out of any situation, or so he thought.

Bundy thought he was the smartest man on Earth, and liked to pretend  he truly was. Most murderers could be categorized as unattractive,  scary, social recluses, but Bundy was none of these things. It is  mentioned briefly in the documentary that this is what made the case so  unique. By showing both sides of Bundy, monster and attractive man, we  are shown more perspective of the women of the 1970s, and why they were  so enticed by Bundy. His charm and general good looks made him the  perfect candidate to be a killer. He assumed because he was so  personable, that he could get away with murder. This made the  documentary flourish because you were able to see exactly what a  charming smile and a college degree can (almost) get away with.

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The documentary also highlights the fact that this was one of the  very first cases to be nearly entirely televised, making it a worldwide  sensation. Every person could turn on the TV and see the details of the  Bundy case come to life day after day. This made the making of the  documentary easier, as there was so no shortage of footage to include.

The documentary ends in 1986, with Bundy up on Death Row to be killed  within the next week. Many lawyers stood up for Bundy, saying that he  shouldn’t be electrocuted because of his mental state. This entire  section of the documentary seems muddled and boring. Usually, you can  rely on a strong conclusion to make a movie or documentary seem better  than it was, but it just ends with interviews of cops from Florida  discussing their hatred for Bundy. After the enthralling footage that  was shown in the documentary, it just felt underwhelming to end on  something that is nowhere near as interesting as anything else in the  entire show.





Images: IMDb

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