I caught Joe Berlinger‘s Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile last week. The reason I didn’t feel moved to post anything is that I was impressed as far as it went, but the only element that really got me was Zac Efron‘s icy, understated portrayal of serial killer Ted Bundy.

It’s a straightforward, well-measured, non-emphatic portrait of a fiend, drawn from the point of view of Bundy’s onetime girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall (Lily Collins). The source is Kendall’s book “The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy“. Kudos to screenwriter Michael Werwie for pruning it down just so.

I was never bored, irked or irritated, but it’s obviously and necessarily an alienating thing to sit through, and the whole time I was telling myself “this is fairly decent but I can’t say I’m enjoying it, and how could I?”

Efron is fascinating. Before this his best performance was in Me and Orson Welles, but this is much stronger for its subtlety. He’s playing an extremely scary guy without overtly signalling full-monster vibes. Well, he does but with dozens of little darting, brush-flick ways.

What other films contain a top-notch lead performance while otherwise making you wish they would end soon?