Friday, December 1, 2017

Review: My Friend Dahmer

Is it possible to be born a monster, something innate inside you that you can't control or, is it something that festers and grows, dependent on your upbringing and environment around you? 

My Friend Dahmer is a difficult movie to review. I hesitated to publish this since I never in a million years thought that I would leave the film feeling sympathy for Dahmer, so much so that I couldn't stop thinking about him for days afterward. 

We all know the story behind Jeffrey Dahmer, the American serial killer and cannibal who murdered, raped, and chopped up the bodies of 17 young men between the late 70's and early 90's. The details of his killings are atrociously gruesome, enough to send shivers down the spine of anyone willing to dig deeper and learn more. What's even more chilling are the interviews with him afterward, the cool and collected demeanor of an absolute psychopath. 

Familiar with all this, I naturally went into Marc Meyers' My Friend Dahmer very curious. The film is based on a graphic novel of the same name, which was written by Dahmer's high school acquaintance, John Beckderf. It chronicles the last two years of Jeffrey Dahmer's high school life, ending just before he claims his first victim.

When we first meet Dahmer (played by the fantastic Ross Lynch), he's a complete loner at school, with a hunched posture and sullen disposition. His home life is a wreck with his parents arguing repeatedly, and his mother who appears to have a bipolar disorder and addiction to pills. He takes solace in collecting and dissecting roadkill, mesmerized by the insides of these creatures. He suddenly acquires "friends" at school, one of them being John, who enjoy his ability to degrade himself and have random outbursts as pranks on schoolmates and the community. His friends slowly realize, however, that there is more than just these outbursts...there's something wrong with Dahmer. Once they start shunning him, he spirals into a slow alcoholism, and you see his mental state deteriorate and become increasingly more disturbing. 

Now, because the film ends just before Jeffrey commits his first crime, you don't see any of the murders. You see Dahmer before he becomes the historic villain we've already been acquainted with. Because of this, Marc Meyer's does a fantastic job of humanizing the character. There are instances where Dahmer is just a regular teenager, from mocking his mother's interior designer, being on a class trip and trying to make new friends, to even asking a girl out to prom, you forget who Jeffrey Dahmer is. Even the title of the film itself is almost endearing. Before watching My Friend Dahmer I remember thinking, "how can anyone think of Dahmer as their friend?" Afterwards, you realize that once upon a time he was, in fact, someone's friend, a suburban teenager before any crimes were committed. All of this makes you wonder, what if someone reached out to him and simply asked him if he was okay, would it have changed anything? Would the outcome have been any different? You almost feel sorry for him, conflicted with emotions since you know exactly who he is. 

I think it's phenomenal that Meyers decided to skip the inclusion of any of the murders. It would have almost felt like a cop-out. You do see two very intense and close encounters, leaving you at the edge of your seat. My Friend Dahmer is definitely slow but extremely powerful. Ross Lynch does such a fantastic job at picking up on Dahmer's traits and getting into the character's mind completely. It's also chilling to know that the scenes in Jeffrey's house are actually shot in the real home he ends up killing his first victim in. 

I highly recommend seeing this indie gem wherever you can, as it's an extremely intimate and despairing portrait of someone beyond hope or help. My Friend Dahmer is the ideal opportunity to question your own emotions and the compassion you'll inevitably feel, something that I'm still struggling coming to terms with. As Nietzsche once wisely put it, "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you."



  1. This really does sounds like a fascinating watch! How interesting they chose to leave out the actual murders and take the different approaching of, like you say, humanising him. I'm definitely going to watch this at some point, it sounds so interesting!!

  2. What an interesting and spooky movie. I have always loved the films that go deeper in the psychology of this kind of characters, as terrifying as they are, it's really interesting to see how they were once a "normal" person... Thanks for sharing and have a great week ahead, girl!

    Saida | She talks Glam


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