by Shannon O’Dell
Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes is a true crime documentary exclusively available for streaming on Netflix. True crime filmmaker Joe Berlinger created the series and it was released on Jan. 24, 2019. It consists of four episodes each around an hour long featuring interviews with convicted serial killer Ted Bundy, those who knew him and the victims’ families. Journalist Stephen Michaud shares over 100 hours of interviews with Bundy.
The documentary portrays Ted Bundy accurately: a manipulative, cunning and deceitful man. While doing so, they also show the victims respect and remind the audience that the victims were real people. Berlinger shows clips of Bundy smiling and happily talking to the press during his trial while he was proclaiming his innocence. Filmmakers include interviews with childhood friends that proclaim he was the last one they would expect to murder.
Bundy was a social worker and political activist, a former law student. He kept suspicion low by being a charming man. They included portions of interviews with the victims’ families that show how they are grieving to show the victims respect. The mother of one of the victims tearfully describes how she’ll never know if her daughter was dying for a long time or suffering.
Along with an accurate portrayal of Bundy, The Ted Bundy Tapes delves into his possible motives. It’s plainly obvious that Bundy desires to be the center of attention and will stop at nothing to achieve it. It’s why he chose to get into politics and went to law school.
Bundy claims that he “blacked out” during the summer before he attended law school because he couldn’t get into a more prestigious school. That summer coincides with the timeline of the murders. During his interviews, he gives a saccharine description of his childhood that induces an eye roll. His childhood and description of that summer sounded very fake and like he was reading from a script.
Naturally, the documentary deeply analyzes Ted Bundy. It took a long time, in fact, until Bundy would discuss the killings. He refused to talk about them for several weeks until Michaud flatters him and asks for his “expert” opinion on who would murder all of those women and why.
Using the third person point of view cued a switch of Bundy’s demeanor – his tone goes from a fake innocence to this chilling and clinical voice while he describes the mind of a serial killer in the third person. A point of view switch was not a coincidence on Bundy’s part as he knew that using it would make his interviews inadmissible in court.
Conversations with a Killer was thoughtfully put together in general. It did a good job of setting the mood. Whenever Bundy went into one of his creepy monologues of nonsense, there was suspenseful music playing while the camera slowly zooms in on a picture of Bundy’s expressionless face. Whenever the filmmakers wanted to make a point, they emphasized it with relevant interviews. Most important of all, Bundy wasn’t glamorized.
This documentary is an excellent choice for everyone wanting to learn more about Ted Bundy and the killings. It provides basic information about the murders and goes in-depth with interviews. First-hand accounts keep the story authentic and the audience interested. The ending of the first episode succeeds in keeping the viewer hooked and wanting to watch the next episode right away. Final verdict: four and a half stars out of five.