Netflix has been acing the genre of true crime ever since they presented Making a Murderer in 2015 and with the launch of their latest, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, the streaming giant has brought the notorious serial killer back in the conversation.
The four-part documentary series starts with tapes that were recorded by a journalist while Ted Bundy was on death row in Florida. For those who aren’t aware, Bundy was a serial killer in the US in the 1970s who abducted innocent women, raped and killed them, leaving their bodies to be consumed by wild animals in most cases. He was a necrophiliac and sometimes even saved skulls of women he had killed as trophies. Over a period, Bundy killed over 30 women across six states, though it is said that the number of actual killings were close to 100.
In the documentary, two journalists meet and talk with the infamous killer and even though he does not confess to the killings in the said tapes, he analyses the killings by taking a third person’s point of view explaining why a killer would act that way.
A lot of focus in the series is given to the physical appearance of Ted Bundy. We are told over and over again that Bundy was quite handsome-looking and had the charm to attract young women. Events of his childhood are merely touched and it is constantly repeated that Bundy wanted to be a part of the crowd but what triggered his heinous side isn’t even hypothesised here. It goes without saying that he was a disturbed man but there is hardly any talk about the method to his madness.
The title suggests that the taped conversations would be the string that ties this true-crime series together but that is not the case. We are shown interviews with church elders, the detectives that worked his case and how he managed to escape from custody, twice. A few of his childhood friends are also interviewed and all anyone can suggest is that he wanted to fit in but couldn’t. We are also shown a lot of old footage where people who encountered him over the years talk about their experiences with him and again, all anyone can hear is, ‘he looked normal’.
The most crucial part of this four-hour series comes in the last half an hour which serves as the resolution but even then, the documentary chooses to revel in the myth of Ted Bundy. He loved to put on a show and he continued to do the same until he died. When he was finally executed in 1989, there was a large gathering outside the prison facility where people chanted ‘Burn Bundy Burn’.
Netflix’s Mindunter, the fictional series that shows the journey of two FBI agents as they go across the country trying to profile serial killers, spoke more about the conditions that turned people into serial killers but here, we are only left with the message that anyone could be a killer. At one point, even Bundy says the same.
Directed and created by Joe Berlinger, the series does not provide any new information on Ted Bundy or any of his cases. It is Bundy himself, who tries to analyse why a serial killer would act a certain way. In fact, towards the end, he is even credited with helping the FBI in profiling serial killers who were active during those years. The message of the series remains lost on the viewers because even though this a documentary, it is neither informational nor does it highlight anything about his killings – the pattern, selecting his victims, his desire to kill, his modus opearndi. For the most part, it only talks about the physical appearance of Ted Bundy.