The Movie Waffler Mike's Strange Cinema Cavalcade - THE STRANGER BESIDE ME | The Movie Waffler

Mike's Strange Cinema Cavalcade - THE STRANGER BESIDE ME

the stranger beside me 2003
A look at the 2003 Ted Bundy biopic.

Review by Mike Vaughn

Directed by: Paul Shapiro

Starring: Billy Campbell, Barbara Hershey, Kevin Dunn, Brenda James, Jay Brazeau

the stranger beside me 2003 bluray

The life and crimes of Ted Bundy have been explored a lot lately, with Netflix having a feature documentary and a docu-drama starring Zac Efron. Now, Mill Creek Entertainment are releasing the 2003 made for television movie The Stranger Beside Me on July 9th.

The film is based on the real-life account of crime writer Ann Rule, who lived alongside one of America’s most sinister monsters. Ann (Barbara Hershey) is an aspiring crime writer covering a series of co-ed murders. She happens to befriend a charming young man named Ted Bundy (Billy Campbell) while working a suicide hotline. The two become close friends and Bundy even gets to know her daughter. Like many others around her, Ann is blinded by the false mask which Ted wears, but that all comes crashing down when his deeds come to light. Now the writer must set aside her personal feelings and write about the monster from a very personal angle.

This made for television movie is pretty much paint-by numbers. Director Paul Shapiro does a decent job at adapting Rule’s haunting and deeply personal account and depicts the guilt and burden Rule had to deal with, knowing a monster, and being tasked with writing about him (her book deal happened just before Bundy was identified). This angle is highly interesting but the film fails to bring home the emotional weight of the book. To be honest, it's kinda bland. One wonders why Ann herself didn’t work on the teleplay.

What really saves this film and keeps it from being watchable is the acting. Campbell is tasked with playing the infamous serial killer and he does a fine job, walking that razor wire line of being charming yet deeply disturbed. He never gets carried away in the part and can be quite chilling at times. Campbell makes the role his own, without going hammy. His cocky self-absorbed nature comes through and his range is excellent. Veteran actor Hershey holds her own opposite Campbell and like him, gives a subtle and absorbing performance. Character actor Kevin Dunn has a small role and I love everything he does, same with Jay Brazeau who plays the Judge.

I found myself engaged with the film, based on the subject matter, but there was nothing really special or standout. I think hardcore fans of true crime will feel the same way, especially with much better films out there. I will say the last shot of the film is pretty unnerving.

The Stranger Beside Me isn't horrible by any means, and the acting by its leads are strong, but overall it's just OK. I just wish the film had a bigger budget and stuck closer to its source material. But who knows, Netflix or someone else might give us a mini series based on the book.

The Stranger Beside Me is on blu-ray July 9th from Mill Creek Entertainment.

Michael Vaughn is a rabid horror and cult fan who turned that love into a career. He is a writer, blogger and film historian and now author of 'The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema' which Shock Wave Podcast named their pick of the month, and Chris Alexander of Fangoria called “recommended reading.”

His other credits include Scream Magazine, Fangoria and websites like Films in Review and Bloody Flicks(UK). Please follow his Twitter @StrangeCinema65 and Instagram @castle_anger.