This country has a fascination with serial killers. They are displayed throughout many different forms of entertainment. One of the more famous and easily recognizable is that of Jeffrey Dahmer. He didn’t just kill his victims, he was also well known for his necrophilia and cannibalism towards the bodies. So what drives a person to do such horrible things? Is it something in our brains that is wired wrong or is it based more on nurture? My Friend Dahmer seeks to answer the question of what happened before Jeffrey decided to kill. This film is based on the 2012 graphic novel written by John ‘Derf’ Backderf who was friends with Dahmer and is portrayed in the film.
My local indie cinema has one off events where they bring a lesser known film in for just one or two showings. Usually the theater is half full or so, but for My Friend is Dahmer they had to have 2 screens and they were both close to maximum. Was the film itself what brought so many people in or did all they need was the subject matter? The film spends most of the time in Dahmer’s senior year. He has a contentious home relationship with his parents. A father who always works and a mother with schizophrenia, who both seem to favor his younger brother. We get a look into Jeffrey’s favorite activity of dissolving road kill before his father shuts it down and wants him to make more friends.
Dahmer goes from quiet loner that seems to not need any friends (he actively ignores the one person that is trying to be his friend), to suddenly needing and craving attention randomly. His new outbursts attract a new group of friends who decide to make Jeff their leader. While they do actively exploit him for their amusement, there also seems to be a genuine attempt to make him a true friend. Now whether that is due to an inherent bias from the original story-teller or not is anyone’s guess.
While My Friend Dahmer has very serious subject matter, the story has a ton of comedic moments. Unlike most good dark comedies where the jokes are subtle, this film forces them out. Half the theater laughed throughout the whole film, while the rest grumbled and wondered what was so funny. By the end you could telegraph when people were going to laugh, it was almost like watching a film with a built-in TV laugh-track. While I would have probably enjoyed the film more at home, I didn’t feel like the forced jokes were needed or necessary to add to the story.
The cinematography was excellent. The lighting and mood of the film really captured something on the edge of madness. Ross Lynch’s portrayal of Dahmer was very good. He was consistent throughout the film and really seemed to capture his role.
My Friend Dahmer Final thoughts 2.5/5
I think My Friend Dahmer had a lot of potential and wish it not only took itself more serious but explored even more into the mind and life of Dahmer. The film ends really before any payoff and what was shown could have easily been condensed. It really seemed to drag out and eventually became uninteresting. Jeffrey’s upbringing portrayed by them film was not different than many kids of that time or even today. I knew kids in high school that acted almost the same as what was shown. With no major trauma or trigger do we know what cause him to kill? Is that what scares people the most they are just wired differently? If that is the case, did this specific film even need to be made?
I mentioned the graphic novel above. There is a newer version on Amazon that ties into the film. It includes an introduction from the film’s director, along with production stills and behind the scenes photos.