The new Netflix documentary, CONVERSATIONS WITH A KILLER: THE TED BUNDY TAPES centers around conversations recorded on tape between convicted serial killer Ted Bundy and journalists Stephen J. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth. These conversations, previously unreleased to the public set the backdrop for the four-part series that chronicles the life of Bundy after his capture as he narrates some of his most gruesome crimes.
Like many true-crime documentaries, THE TED BUNDY TAPES goes back and forth between snippets of the recordings and present-day interviews with Michaud and Aynesworth as well as old friends of Bundy’s and even survivor Carol DaRonch. For those who are unfamiliar with the full Ted Bundy story, the murders and the circus media that followed including not one but several escapes from jail, this is a good retelling of the events that transpired during his murder spree in the 70s.
The tapes themselves don’t really reveal anything that a true-crime loving audience wouldn’t already know. They’re actually the weakest part of the documentary in my opinion, which is unfortunate considering the whole documentary series revolves around them. Bundy begins by telling us about his childhood, which was seemingly normal. He reminisces about summers at the lake, playing with his childhood friends and how “normal” his parents were. He talks about countering his introvertedness as an adolescent by being aloof and coming off as intellectually superior to his peers. He doesn’t really give us much in terms of why he would eventually commit heinous crimes. He doesn’t really give us anything at all as far as the crimes he committed, citing that he “doesn’t know” and veering the conversation back to himself when asked about crime scenes or victim Lynda Ann Healy.
It isn’t until it is suggested that he talks about what kind of person would commit crimes like these, or the headspace this type of person would be in that he decides to open up. Speaking in the third person he drones about how a person committing these crimes probably felt and how he “probably” went about kidnapping and murdering. He never actually confesses in these tapes, and as we find out in the documentary, it isn’t until he is about to be executed that he confesses to anything at all.
Towards the back end of the series, we’re treated to footage of Bundy’s trials, where he tries to fire his lawyers, ends up representing and cross examining witnesses himself and even gets engaged during a trial. By the end of the series, I was so annoyed by Bundy’s narcissism that once he does confess, I was relieved that I didn’t have to hear him be up his own ass anymore.
Directed by Joe Berlinger who is also the director of the upcoming feature film on Bundy, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, CONVERSATIONS WITH A KILLER: THE TED BUNDY TAPES is a decent crash course on Ted Bundy and they don’t really get into any super gruesome details if you’re the squeamish type. They do show a few crime scene photos throughout the first two episodes but not for any extended period of time. If anything, THE TED BUNDY TAPES shows the viewer just how much of a narcissist Ted Bundy was and leaves the viewer with a sour taste in their mouth as the docuseries closes with Bundy’s execution and post-interviews with those who came in contact with Bundy throughout his life. “Ted endures”, Michaud says towards the end of the series, which in retrospect is exactly what Bundy wanted: For people to keep talking about him long after his death. CONVERSATIONS WITH A KILLER: THE TED BUNDY TAPES premieres on Netflix January 24th.
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