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The Ted Bundy Tapes: the true-crime docuseries that is surprisingly gripping

Difficult to stomach yet highly addictive, The Ted Bundy Tapes delivers the quintessential gritty true-crime that we all love to get our teeth into.

It seems recently that we, as a generation, are increasingly fascinated with the phenomena of serial killers. With true-crime shows like Making a Murderer being such huge hits in the last few years, it is perhaps unsurprising that the new Netflix series on serial killer Ted Bundy is proving to be equally as popular and binge-worthy.

Described as the Jack the Ripper of America, Bundy was one of the first to be branded a ‘serial killer’ in the 1970s. With over thirty victims, it wasn’t until his final days on death row that he confessed to his crimes. However, if you don’t know a thing about him you won’t be at a loss. The show profiles and examines the man, the crimes and the trials without skipping a beat.

The smarmy charisma that misled his victims seeps into the episodes – a chilling reminder of how he succeeded

The docuseries marks 30 years since his execution on 24th January 1989, and the crimes of the infamous serial killer are no less shocking now. The tapes themselves, recorded in interviews with journalists Hugh Aynesworth and Stephen Michaud, provide a harrowing narration from Bundy himself. Often in the third person, he attempts to justify a person acting as he did and even describes himself committing the crimes. The smarmy charisma that misled his victims seeps into the episodes – a chilling reminder of how he succeeded. The final feature-length episode airs his confessions to a disturbing array of crimes and behaviours and, as if that weren’t enough to make your stomach turn,  even includes the reaction of his mother to the news.

Perhaps because I’m a law student or perhaps because I, like the rest of us, can’t resist wasting valuable study hours on Netflix, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes had me thoroughly gripped. Given the majority of the footage is piecemeal news reports and interviews, I was pleasantly surprised by how gripping the episodes were. It is difficult not to be fascinated by the charming college student’s demise into a psychologically unstable killer.

In no way does Berlinger attempt to create a horror series, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t certain to keep you up at night

It is often tough to find a balance between feeding information and building suspense, especially in only four episodes, but series director Joe Berlinger rises to the challenge. The show expertly darts from witness account, to photo evidence, to an emotional testament from the families involved; you are transported into a frenzied America shaken by the new phenomena of the serial killer.

In no way does Berlinger attempt to create a horror series, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t certain to keep you up at night. The people, reports and hours of Bundy’s own accounts craft a timeline of events gently revealing the truth behind the facade one grisly crime at a time. Far beyond the usual profiling of serial killers, the series delves into the thoughts and feelings behind the facts.

30 years on and Bundy is becoming a household name once again. The film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, premiering at the Sundance Film Festival 2019, will see Zac Efron take on the role of Ted in a movie of his life. Though sure to be more of a dramatisation, it is hard to imagine the star of The Greatest Showman living up to the truly disturbing serial killer displayed in The Ted Bundy Tapes.

Four hours, four episodes and a whole load of a heinous crime- it is truly terrifying.

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