When another one of these movies rolls around, they’re easier to ignore. When they start arriving in pairs, it speaks to both the hunger for the equivalent of serial-killer celebrities and the sheer glut of content.
So add two more to the Bundy filmography — which began with Mark Harmon in “The Deliberate Stranger” in 1986 — both of which focus on those in law enforcement connected to the case: “No Man of God,” which stars Elijah Wood as FBI profiler Bill Hagmaier, opposite a chillingly effective Luke Kirby as Bundy; and “Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman,” with Chad Michael Murray as Bundy and Holland Roden as Kathleen McChesney, the young Seattle cop pursuing him.
The films offer a stark contrast in how two movies, both relatively small in scale, can take similar material and go in wildly different directions — the first playing like a taut, provocative character study in the cat-and-mouse game between the killer and the low-key fed; and the latter representing cheap exploitation, which presents the killings in a lurid way that adds virtually nothing to the story.
That’s the task assigned to Wood’s Hagmaier, who realizes that Bundy will clam up if he interrogates him, instead engaging with him in a manner that gradually got Bundy to reveal and share more than he otherwise would, via a series of conversations leading up to his execution.
“American Boogeyman” also deals with profiling — McChesney and profiler Robert Ressler (Jake Hays) are both real-life figures — but spends far too much time peering over Bundy’s shoulder as he chooses and pursues victims.
The appetite for true crime certainly isn’t ebbing, with enough enthusiasts that the genre has flourished in a TV and movie marketplace further fragmented by streaming. Despite a steady diet of serial-killer-related programming, Bundy remains a particularly durable figure whose story keeps being recycled through whatever new wrinkle drama and documentary filmmakers can find.
Given that, “American Boogeyman” might be dreck, but the title gets one thing right: This boogeyman isn’t going away as long as there’s a buck to be made off the name.
“No Man of God” opens in theaters and on demand on Aug. 27.
“Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman” is available on demand and DVD on Sept. 3.
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