My Friend Dahmer (2017)
Director: Marc Meyers Starring: Ross Lynch, Alex Wolff, Anne Heche, Zachary Davis Brown. USA. 1h 47m
After the massive success of the indie graphic novel, this disturbing film steps into the shoes of the adolescent, much “loved” serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. A highly attuned retro aesthetically driven adventure, does what a lot of serial killer films avoid, it dives right into the beginning and shows that a killer was born and wasn’t nurtured into his sadism. Obviously there were shitty aspects to his childhood but the strange obsessions with dead flesh seemed to always be in him.
Ross Lynch, strides around with his swept back hair and huge flares, looking so authentic and chilling as the infamous serial killer in his golden youth. Sliding between a loved son to a dead eyed, stoned face killer. Jeffrey spends his free time moving between his “dead shed” where he’s at home with his road kill finds and the ducking people in the high school halls. Everyone can sense there’s something up with Jeffrey but no one, at the time, could guess just how wrong!
Based on the acclaimed graphic novel
My friend Dahmer was originally a graphic novel and memoir by artist John “Derf” Backderf about his teenage friendship with the infamous killer. Having such a rare close connection there’s a heavy sense of authenticity about both projects. John keeps the story in the realms of facts, he only brings what he knows to the table and doesn’t attempt to fill in the gaps or speculate. There’s no comments on his early childhood, but just their brief friendship at high school. John appears in his own story and is portrayed by the ever cool and laid back Alex Wolff, who is the eternal teenager.
Initially Dahmer was just the odd kid about town, hanging out with another couple of outcasts, but John and his friends strike up a friendship with the blonde loner and they all play a big part in each other’s lives. Obviously in hindsight John’s had time to reflect on what happened and paints Dahmer as a moody isolated teen, a young man being punished by his inner demons and cripples by social anxieties. His long suffering parents, Lionel (Robert) and Joyce (Heche) are a crazy dysfunctional couple, Joyce’s mood swings blows the entire family out of the water with her impulse buying and breakouts, something usually on par with Sharon Stone in Casino… often spinning her husband with the odd slap, he attempts to keep up with her antics and care for his son, however no one really understands how to care for the introverted kid.
From social outcast, to number one prankster, there’s a huge shift in Dahmer’s character, from struggling in school to becoming a sly predator. John attempts to connect the dots, was he simply acting out and pretending to fit in the corridors at school just to gain popularity or was this the first steps of his training to be a master manipulator?
“I’m just like anybody else”-Jeffrey Dahmer
There’s a superb range of actors who portray the main characters as authentically as I’ve ever imagined. With the focus being on life before the acts which gained the headlines, Meyers keen eye is focused on prey on a disturbed young man, and the method acting and set up around the domestic is such a fresh approach to the serial killer genre. Not one person is “hurt” during the film let alone killed but the sense of foreboding danger becomes ever present and it’s hard to point out when it all kicks in, it’s just so subtly added into the details.
Ross Lynch’s embodiment of Dahmer is chilling and powerful, the result of a lot of method acting that’s easily put the cast on edge, it feels like an intelligent response to the mire of serial killer films which just don’t go anywhere, and are dedicated to detailing the murders and not really looking at the killer with any genuine kindness. Johns original story isn’t aimed to paint a picture of Jeffrey , it’s merely a mood of the time they spent together, not pointing the finger at a specific moment which changed him but shows an old friend watch his friend slip away into his own darker world, and we already know how it all ends but we never really knew these personal details until we dive into My Friend Dahmer.