Directed by Marc Meyers
Starring: Ross Lynch, Alex Wolff, Dallas Roberts, Anne Heche
IMDb 6.3/10 Rotten Tomatoes 86% Metacritic 68/100
I wanted to see this film because it is based off of the graphic novel I did a review on of the same name, My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf. You can read that review HERE.
This film was surprisingly good. Not only did it follow the graphic novel extremely well, the few things they seemed to add for dramatic effect were done just right.
In this film, we get a close up and personal look at what Jeffrey Dahmer was like as a teenager. He seemed to just live in a lost and miserable existence, unsure of his place in his home, his school, society and the world. It’s obvious that Jeff’s parents are clueless about what is going on in his daily life and completely in denial about what was in his head.
Jeff seemed to walk around in a pitiful, depressed posture, drawing the attention of the typical high school bullies. The first brush at a chance of a friendship he got was quickly batted down when the bullies targeted the other kid in an even worse way than they did Dahmer. My guess is, while he wanted a friend, he didn’t want to be friends with someone ELSE that got hammered on a daily basis and just took it.
His parent’s marriage was completely and utterly dysfunctional. Jeff’s mother was, in some way, ill. I don’t know if it was a mental illness or if it was the drug and alcohol abuse by itself but, she was very hard to handle and it made life difficult for everyone, especially Lionel, Jeff’s father. By senior year, Jeff’s parents were getting divorced, his father had moved into an apartment and his mother moved to his grandmother’s with his little brother, leaving him in the family home all alone to do as he pleased when he pleased, answering to no one.
Senior year was also when things seemed to somewhat turn around for Dahmer. He started acting out at school, having these “spaz” attacks and making people laugh. He then realized that the class clown doesn’t get bullied near as much as the class nerd or class nobody. This led to a small group of boys becoming what they would name “the Dahmer Fan Club”. This would also be the closest semblance to friendship he would ever have in his life.
Throughout all of his high school years Dahmer collected and dissected roadkill. He tried soaking the dead animals in acid to rid the carcasses of the flesh. He even had a hut in the woods where he had a number of dead animals covered in liquid and stored in jars.
Though he had his fan club and they hung out at school, Jeff didn’t have anyone outside of school and he didn’t have anyone at home. This bitter loneliness coupled with the anger pent up inside over years of bullying, dysfunction and feelings of inadequacy, led him to start drinking…and heavily. Soon, all he was known for was the smell of liquor that trailed behind him everywhere he went and loomed over him when he was stationary.
It’s easy, when watching this film, to see Dahmer as a human being instead of a monster, as a misunderstood kid, as an ignored and neglected son. It’s very simple to see why he was so depressed, why he felt out of place, why he just didn’t ever seem to fit in.
On the other hand, the feelings he got from having friends and making people laugh, it’s a little difficult to understand why he didn’t make friends easier and why he wasn’t more social. Once that door opened, he seemed to do well with it, under the class clown guise. Couldn’t he have done the same by toning down the goofiness a little and talking to some people after he started being liked a bit?
Anyways, I thought this film was very well done with respect to the book. I also think it gives excellent insight to what people actually knew at the time versus what shows up in hindsight.
While in hindsight the signs are always very apparent, it’s easy to see how no one person was able to put everything together at the time. If you want some insight beyond the “monster” image, then this is a good film to watch.