Holland Roden Isn’t Afraid of the “American Boogeyman”

Holland looks for the American Boogeyman
Holland Roden | Dark Star Pictures/Voltage Pictures

Do we need another Ted Bundy movie? When I heard about and saw the poster for Dark Star’s American Boogeyman this was the first thing to come to mind. With Chad Michael Murray (Riverdale) donning an inexplicable mustache and menacing glare, I was turned off. It’s been 32 years since his execution and his story seemed to be the go-to for young actors trying to round out their image. But American Boogeyman offers something different.

There are two properties coming out this year and that only adds to the more modern examples like Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile starring Zac Efron and the Netflix docuseries Conversations With a Killer: Ted Bundy Tapes. Ted Bundy is a strange phenomenon. Or rather, the American fascination with the ‘70s serial killer is fascinating. But is it warranted?

“There’s a great comedian with a Ted Bundy bit saying things like, ‘Ted Bundy is not this handsome man, he just happened to be more attractive than the average serial killer’,” American Boogeyman star Holland Roden discusses the finer details of Bundy’s legend, “He wasn’t that smart. He represented himself at his trial and it ended in execution, you could not have done worse!” And yet, there’s something about the sinister that calls out to Americans causing us to take notice. In the case of American Boogeyman, for once, it’s not all about Bundy. But rather a 5’2” spitfire redhead.

Kathleen McChesney
Kathleen McChesney | News.ND.EDU

“I go up for a lot of roles and usually there’s an aesthetic for policewomen and detective women. It is always these very lithe, tall, angle-faced people! I love that by coincidence Kathleen McChesney was closer to me and I got to step into her shoes.” And they were big shoes to fill. If the name McChesney sounds familiar to you, it may be because in 2002 she was chosen to lead the Office of Child Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This was in direct response to the allegations of molestation against Catholic clergy and she established methodologies for responding to reports of abuse.

McChesney also happened to be one of the lead detectives in the Seattle Sheriff’s department investigating the Ted Bundy murders. Along with FBI Agent Rober Ressler (portrayed by Jake Hays in the film), the two employed newer methods to tracking Bundy’s movements.

“She was one of the only people to say, ‘Hey, why don’t we look at this from a psychological standpoint? Let’s do it that way and see if we can catch him’. And that’s ultimately how they did catch him; by predicting his moves based on what he was thinking and not necessarily what he was doing.” You can hear the personal admiration as Holland recounts the research she did. There’s a scene in American Boogeyman where a male cop is very excited because he just knows he’s cracked the case using a repeating sequence. McChesney quickly points out that what the officer thinks is a pattern isn’t and says they need to work to get inside of Bundy’s head. “It was one of the first times a case was solved that way. That’s why she was the inspiration for Clarice [Silence of the Lambs]. That alone drew me to the role.”

Holland Roden
Holland Roden | Dark Star Pictures/Voltage Pictures

If you’re familiar with Roden’s career, then a woman in the 1970s Seattle Sheriff’s station putting her life and career on the line to solve a string of mysterious murders isn’t completely off-base. Especially given the sometimes seeming magical realism in American Boogeyman. At first, it seemed Roden had a predilection towards supernatural and science fiction, but there’s a deeper reason these roles jump out at her.

“I really love non-fiction.” She laughs, stating it simply and very matter-of-fact. She explains the properties that have defined her catalog, but may not fit into the nonfiction genre. “It happens to be a little of a coincidence for me. When I booked Teen Wolf I read the script – at the time MTV hadn’t had a scripted program since Undressed. There was a lot of hesitancy towards it, but I was like, ‘I don’t know guys, I think it’s really good’. I was either crazy or I was correct and thank god my hunch was the latter.” After Teen Wolf, Roden appeared in similarly dark content and also projects based on real events.

“As far as the escape room movies, I actually really love escape rooms, I’ve been to far too many parties that had them! And Lore, well, when thinking about Lore and Bridget Cleary and how Ireland at the time essentially had honor killings of these ‘witches’ until the 20th century, it was quite sad and Bridget was that last person. I really, really like portraying real people, I like the blueprint.” Roden was thoughtful about accepting the role of McChesney for American Boogeyman “It’s the exceptional casting that draws me. While I don’t think we need another Ted Bundy movie, I think this is different because it’s about her.”

Ted Bundy American Boogeyman
Chad Michael Murray | Dark Star Pictures/Voltage Pictures

The story is told from McChesney’s point of view and Roden’s performance is accessible and a good entry point into the film. Earlier we’d discussed America’s fascination with the fallacy of the Bundy legend and American Boogeyman director Daniel Farrands (known for The Haunting of Sharon Tate) finds balance where it acknowledges the fantasy while showing the bitter reality. Bundy wasn’t calm, cool, and collected. He was deeply troubled and given to bouts of impulsivity. The movie is gory for effect, but also shows you the monster behind this man. There are some fictional elements added for effect, but they work for the most part and are only distracting when that’s the point of the scene.

Overall, Bundy represents what the movie isn’t about. What it is about is a young woman looking to change things. And wanting to find justice for the families and loved ones of Bundy’s numerous victims. American Boogeyman does a good job of showing us the true heroes of the era.

American Boogeyman will be available on VOD and DVD, September 3, 2021.

Check out the trailer below:

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