Jeffrey Dahmer will be forever known for his horrendous crimes throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Here we get to see the child that will be become the monster.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or can’t stomach real-life crime stories, then here’s a quick recap. Jeffrey Dahmer AKA The Milwaukee Cannibal was involved in some of the most horrific acts in recent memory. He not only kept parts of his victims but as the name suggests cannibalising them too and many others which a quick Google search won’t hurt.
What’s most disturbing to me is after the fact. We’re conditioned to see these people as mad-eyed lunatics but in this case, Dahmer was eloquent and even regretful of his crimes, something which still fascinates people and psychiatrists to this day.
John Barkderf was a schoolmate of Dahmer and here we get more or less his account of the events. A year before Jeff (Ross Lynch, more on him later) will commit these atrocious crimes, he was just another awkward teen. All the traits are there weighted shoulders, messy long hair and the infamous thick-rimmed glasses. There were moments I forgot I was watching an actor.
In his spare time, Jeffrey dabbles in preserving and melting up different kinds of roadkill why? “Just to see what they look like on the inside.”
His father Lionel (Dallas Roberts) struggles with keeping his teenage son in check by destroying his workshop/shed urging him to hit the weights and meet people, while also putting up with his neurotic wife Joyce. Anne Heche in a near scene-stealing role. Any person knows that one of the worst things is seeing your parents fight. Worse than that is when your friends happen to see it too.
Alex World plays Derf the writer of the comic which the film is based on. As the movie suggests he witnessed one of Dahmer’s parents’ fights but the movie never does suggest there is only one thing that led the troubled teen to do what he did.
Derf himself doesn’t come clean as he and a few friends start a fan club of sorts, egging Jeff to do what they call “A Dahmer,” convulsing on the floor along with other various pranks.
As for Ross Lynch, what an undertaking this must have been. His physical embodiment shows on screen, always hunched, always with his head down peering out from behind those massive spectacles. Whether it be solemn moments of Jeff in his room or him stalking the local butch male doctor, he gives it his all. I have to mention that after watching this I can’t wait to see what the next ex-Disney kid Zac Efron has to offer as Ted Bundy.
Sad to say I hadn’t seen anything of Lynch in his Disney days or anything else before but after this I’m sure he’s going places. Think how Tom Hardy turned out after Bronson and you’ll get the gist.
What My Friend Dahmer is, is a horror film without that big reveal. The whole film feels like one big eerie set piece despite it taking place over the course of a year. Director Marc Meyer’s pacing never lets up, Daniel Katz’s photographic eye captures the Ohio wilderness. There’s a lot of green in this film, the house, the school nearly everything is surrounded by woodland giving off that sense of isolation. However, if I haven’t made it clear so far, a horror gore-fest/slasher this is not. What this is though is a superbly written and acted tense drama of real people, flawed people.
It won’t change how you see or feel about the real thing but it will open your eyes to other aspects. Brilliant performances all round, tense from beginning to end.