A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
No positive messages in movie about serial killer Ted Bundy.
Positive Role Models
Kathleen McChesney is a Seattle homicide detective starting her career in the 1970s, a time when it was rare for women to be in law enforcement. Against culture of sexism, she emerges as someone adept at finding patterns in the grisly murders committed by Bundy, and her work and tenacity eventually land her a job at the FBI and result in her ascending the ranks, often as the first woman to attain high-ranking positions at the FBI.
Kathleen McChesney is a highly competent, dedicated law enforcement officer during a time when it was believed at the FBI and elsewhere that only men could do that kind of work. Psychiatrist who interviews Bundy in prison is an African American man.
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Violence & Scariness
True crime thriller/horror movie violence throughout. Young women shown being attacked by Bundy. Women in their beds are bludgeoned with a blunt object. A woman is shown being abducted, handcuffed inside of a car, where it's later revealed that she was raped and murdered. Decapitated heads. Gory remains of a corpse in a morgue. Bundy keeps violent pornographic magazines in his bedroom: images of women tied up and beaten. During a fantasy sequence, Bundy imagines himself tied up in bed while women beat him, as quick close-up shots of his face show him seemingly in the act of masturbation. Women who survived Bundy's final attacks before his arrest are shown beaten and bloodied. Horror movie-style jump scares throughout.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The house mother of a sorority who is renting out a room to Bundy makes a rhyming sexual joke concerning how she graduated in the "Class of '69."
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Profanity throughout. "F--k" often used. Also: "a--hole," "s--t," "goddamn," "damn."
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Products & Purchases
Orange Julius mentioned by name. Woman carries a Waldenbooks bag while standing outside of a mall.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Marijuana smoking. Cigarette smoking. Beer drinking in a bar. Tequila drinking in a house.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman is a 2021 true crime horror-thriller about the years-long pursuit and capture of the serial killer. Some of the real-life killings are filmed in the style of horror movies, with jump scares and suspenseful music. Young women are shown being lured by Bundy, handcuffed in his car while screaming. Women are shown being attacked while in their beds, bludgeoned with a blunt object, faces bloodied as they scream. Other images include a gory corpse in a morgue, a decapitated head, and police photographs of murder scenes (remains of body parts). Bundy keeps violent pornographic magazines in his room. He is shown in a fantasy sequence being tied up in bed and beaten by women wearing leather masks, as close-ups of Bundy's face give the appearance that he's masturbating. Police officers talk of Bundy's methods of killings women, how he bludgeons, rapes, and kills them. Marijuana smoking, cigarette smoking, and beer drinking are seen, and there's some profanity, including "f--k." On the positive side, Kathleen McChesney, one of the officers and later FBI agents who helped to finally bring Bundy to justice, is presented as an intelligent and dedicated law enforcement officer starting her career at a time when women were surrounded by sexism and weren't allowed to work as agents in the FBI. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman is yet another of the roughly two dozen documentaries and feature-length movies "based on true events" about the serial killer. Often shot like a horror movie, with jump scares and suspenseful music galore, the movie comes across as a cynical Hollywood attempt to sensationalize gruesome violence and exploit Bundy's incomprehensibly evil murders and the traumatic suffering endured by those who survived what Bundy did. While the movie does give equal time to the FBI agents who tracked Bundy down, and a "Where are they now?" montage at the end discusses the positive work those who caught or survived Bundy did in the years after the serial murders, disturbing sequences involving Bundy's fantasies and the suspense leading up to the attacks are much more likely to resonate, unfortunately.
It's not a bad movie from a technical standpoint. But it doesn't really contribute anything new to a story told too many times about a sociopath who doesn't deserve so much of "the Hollywood treatment," or any of it, really. What does it say about an industry that, for every documentary about, say, Gandhi, churns out roughly one billion documentaries about serial killers and fascist dictators? Are audiences really that evil-obsessed, or is this a cynical appeal to an innate fascination with people trying to make sense of ugly true-life evil? Do we better understand serial or mass murder, or is this merely lowest common denominator entertainment? It's past time to derive so much "entertainment value" from creeps like Bundy, and long past time to take the "anti" out of "anti-heroes."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.