Serial killer biography. What could be more interesting and frightening. One would think, at least. And yet, due to decisions made by director/co-writer Marc Meyers (How He Fell in Love), the film drags along and just resulted in me thinking that Jeffrey Dahmer’s life was rather dull. Until he started his killing spree, that is.
Between 1978 and 1991 Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 young men. Not to diminish the loss of life, but you would think this is perfect fodder for a riveting look at what type of person is capable of committing such attrocities. My Friend Dahmer looks primarily the last year of high school for Jeffrey and the time from then right up until he started killing. He is one of the most feared and famous serial killers in the history of the United States. Here we see the evolution from an outsider with a tempetuous home life to a cold blooded killer.
Jeffrey Dahmer (Ross Lynch – from television’s Austin & Ally) is in the last year of high school. Neither his school life or home life is particularly good. At home his mother (Anne Heche – Donnie Brasco, Wag the Dog), who is fresh out of being in a mental institution, and father (Dallas Roberts – Dallas Buyers Club, Walk the Line) constantly argue and eventually divorce. At school he is your stereotypical outsider with no friends and is bullied by the cool kids. The only times he is happy is when he is spying on a male jogger (Vincent Karthheiser – from television’s Mad Men) and collecting road kill then examining the innards.
Once he begins acting out in school Jeffrey begins to attract the attention from a group of guys, who become his friends. Actually, they call him their mascot and form The Jeffrey Dahmer Fan Club. Despite the fact that he has friends for the first time doesn’t mean that he is happy. His behaviour begins to get even weirder. As grad approaches he is totally out of control. Though on the down low as others don’t seem too concerned.
There has not been too many films about real life serial killers. For every Monster there has been a dozen Silence of the Lambs. So with an admission of morbid curiousity I dove into this film. Just needing to know how the evolution happened. With a show of good taste the film delves into his growing interest in men as well as animal carcasses, but does not do so exploitatively. It does not focus on bringing us gore. Rather attempts to show emotionally and mentally what he was going through.
What makes it scary is how normal the Dahmers are portrayed as. Clueless parents, who were not really abusive, but certainly did not know what to do with their kids, especially Jeffrey. Instead they were rather self involved and neglectful. So out of a rather regular family came this serial killer. That is frightening as we always want to think that monsters come out of horrible situations. Shows how many missed signs happened. How those around him did not step in when the downward spiral was happening. Implications are made that if someone had stepped in…
Plodding is a way you could describe the pace of the film until the last 20 minutes or so. So much so that I felt at times the Meyers could have trimmed some of it. Rather odd in the respect that at several points in the early going of the film you will feel like you want to laugh. Everything in the film goes along with a rather humourous overtone to it until graduation time. Then the tone turns dark and, for me, that was the best part of the film. You get a preview of what is to come…murder and mayhem.
-Interview with Ross Lynch
-Behind the Scenes Slideshow
-Official Theatrical Trailer