Written & Directed by: Marc Meyers
Based on the book ‘My Friend Dahmer’ by: Derf Backderf
Produced by: Jody Girgenti, p.g.a., Marc Meyers, p.g.a., Adam Goldworm, p.g.a., Michael Merlob, Milan Chakraborty
Starring: Ross Lynch, Anne Heche, Dallas Roberts, Alex Wolff, Tommy Nelson, Vincent Kartheiser, Harrison Holzer and Miles Robbins.
Based on the true story of serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, My Friend Dahmer is a tense and creepy examination of Dahmer’s life before he became a murderer.
Reminiscent of the tone used in J. D. Salinger’s, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ there’s a constant tension with signs of Dahmer’s compulsions apparent in his obsession of collecting road-kill to then soak in acid to collect the bones: external behaviour symptomatic of his increasingly disturbed mind.
Based on Derf Backderf’s critically acclaimed 2012 graphic novel, Derf writes from personal experience after attending high school with Dahmer. Before finding out about Dahmer’s confession, Derf (his character in the movie played by Alex Wolff) considered his high school experience to be like everyone else’s.
Film writer and director, Marc Meyers asks, ‘What are those forces in one’s life that sculpt and define us? How do we become who we become? Why does one teenager find promise and his friend, meanwhile, enters adulthood broken?’
This isn’t a violent or gory film, but a character study of suspense.
Following Dahmer (Ross Lynch) through senior-high, pre-1978, the audience is shown the typical teen struggles as the isolated, unusual Dahmer is adopted by a group of boys who find his antics hilarious.
Surrounded by girls ‘aggressively’ out of their league, team-Dahmer create a high-school legend as Dahmer throws epileptic-type fits in class, in the hallway; random moments that disturb and amuse. And the antics of making Dahmer their mascot is genuinely funny, in an adolescent kind of way.
That’s what’s so unsettling about the film: the ordinary nature of kids in school being typical.
Everyone grew up with a kid like Dahmer. But what was it that turned a kid-made-famous in school by chucking fits for attention, all for the entertainment of his new mates, into a serial killer, ultimately confessing to the murder of seventeen men and boys?
Meyer’s focusses on the characters, allowing the story to speak without flash, without overt violence like blurring the image of a gutted dog, the impression enough to evoke the heart-rending response.
This isn’t a true-crime investigation with detectives and interviews, instead, the depths of Dahmer are explored showing his struggle to connect, showing there’s wit and humour buried beneath the cold exterior.
You can see the tipping of his compulsions versus his want to be with friends changing depending on the difficulties he faces at home with his mother’s mental illness (outstanding performance of Joyce Dahmer by Anne Heche) and his parents divorcing.
His father, Lionel Dahmer (Dallas Roberts) tries to understand the bizarre behaviour of his kid, to make the effort to encourage change like buying Dahmer a set of weights to get him out of the road-kill death hut and to maybe meet a girl.
And you can see Dahmer trying yet failing to fight against his needs.
This kid is twisted and it’s difficult yet fascinating to watch.
There’s a curiousity out there, to watch the makings of a serial killer. But this isn’t one of those sensationalised dramatic thrills.
My Friend Dahmer is more of a quiet observation made all the more disturbing through a setting of the ordinary.
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