A scene from the film 'Hurdle,' directed by Dallas native Michael Rowley. The film will screen at the 2019 Dallas International Film Festival 

A scene from the film 'Hurdle,' directed by Dallas native Michael Rowley. The film will screen at the 2019 Dallas International Film Festival 

/DIFF

As serial killers go, Ted Bundy is enjoying quite a comeback. He's no longer with us, of course — he was electrocuted in a Florida prison in 1989 — but he recently became the focal point of a highly popular Netflix series, and now, a feature film overseen by the same director who will launch the 2019 Dallas International Film Festival.

The Hollywood treatment of Bundy stars Zac Efron, who appeared in the TV movie, High School Musical, in 2006. Yes, High School Musical.

His portrayal of a disarming killer — Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile — ushers in the opening night of the festival, with screenings at 7 and 7:30 p.m. in two different theaters inside the Magnolia Theatre complex on April 11. There will be an opening-night party, just outside the Magnolia, from 8:45 p.m. to 11 p.m. For a full schedule of events and other info, visit dallasiff.org.

Joe Berlinger, left, the director and producer of 'Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile,' and on the right, its star, Zac Efron, who plays serial killer Ted Bundy.

Joe Berlinger, left, the director and producer of 'Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile,' and on the right, its star, Zac Efron, who plays serial killer Ted Bundy.

Brian Douglas/

Other highlights include director Michael Rowley screening the world premiere of his movie, Hurdle, in his hometown of Dallas. That one happens on the night of April 12, with a repeat showing on April 16.

Dallas native Michael Rowley will return to Dallas for the 2019 Dallas International Film Festival to screen his film 'Hurdle.'

Dallas native Michael Rowley will return to Dallas for the 2019 Dallas International Film Festival to screen his film 'Hurdle.'

Michael Clouser/DIFF

The website for Hurdle offers this description: "In the shadow of a wall stands a new generation of Palestinian. With defiant creativity, they prove that no matter the height of the obstacle, one can always climb."

The festival will also screen Diamantino, which last year ended up as the grand-prize winner during Cannes Critics Week. "It chronicles the fall from grace of a top football [soccer] player after his knee collapses and ends his career. What follows is a descent into and exploration of numerous dark sides of life," reports Variety.

For those who like comedy, and don't mind dark comedy, the festival offers a pair of intriguing options. Aziza is described as "a dynamic take on the life of Syrian refugees told through black comedy." Before You Know It is the story of two sisters who find out "that the mother they thought was dead is alive and starring on a soap opera."

And what do you know, even Dallas restaurateur Shannon Wynne has co-produced an animated short film featured in the festival. 

There's Something in the Water chronicles the destructive power of an invasive, Brazilian plant species at Caddo Lake, where Wynne has a longtime second home. As the film's website notes: "Caddo Lake is the only natural lake in Texas, but its delicate eco-system is threatened by a seemingly unstoppable invasive species of floating fern: Giant Salvinia."

As so often happens with film festivals, the opening selection sets the tone. And this one might be controversial. Even the Bundy documentary got its share of criticism for focusing on the killer and not his many victims, all of whom were women.

And now, we have a feature film in which a so-called "heartthrob" plays a mass murderer.

The festival website describes Efron's film as "a chronicle of the crimes of Ted Bundy, from the perspective of his longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, who refused to believe the truth about him for years."

CORRECTION at 5:06 p.m., April 9, 2019: This story has been updated to reflect that a second screening of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile has been added in a second theater at the Magnolia at 7:30 p.m. and to clarify that an event planned for 9 p.m. is not a screening, but an opening night party. 

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