My Friend Dahmer [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Filmrise
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (16th April 2018).
The Film

This is not a sensationalized serial killer film that gruesomely exploits the murderous rampage of Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed and cannibalized 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. No, instead this is an insightful study of alienation and ultimately isolation that works on a more psychological level focusing on Dahmerís early years prior to his first murder. I am a longtime mark for serial killers and have studied criminology extensively and so I was both excited and intrigued about this film; the results are that "My Friend Dahmer" is definitely worth seeking out not just for its topic, but because of the superb performances of its stars, Ross Lynch as the budding serial killer and Anne Heche as his rattled mother, Joyce.

It is 1978 and we are in Bath, Ohio, and the film opens with shots of the title character sitting alone on the school bus, on its way to high school. Jeff (Ross Lynch) is a teenager that is trying to find his way through the trials and tribulations of being a junior and sadly lacking both friends and social skills. Director Marc Meyers takes pains in establishing the character of Dahmer by showing us his home life, his hobbies, and his budding sexuality as he openly gazes on a passing jogger (Vincent Kartheiser) with unabashed yearning. There are no easy answers to the questions of why did Dahmer become the insatiable killer that he would eventually become, and like all serial killers Dahmer was made, not born, a killer. However Meyers doesnít bog his film down with all types of psychobabble, this is a coming of age film whose topic just happens to be one of the most infamous serial killers in the country. But before the entire country knew the name Jeffrey Dahmer, he was just an ordinary teenager in Bath, Ohio and he was battling all the demons that growing up entails: puberty, dealing with the parents, underage drinking, discovering about sex, making friends and planning for the future.

Ross Lynch does an amazing job of transferal not only because he more than resembles Dahmer, but because his body language is pitch perfect as well. His Dahmer shuffles when he walks with his head down or staring straight ahead; it is more than evident that Jeff suffers from a number of mental issues and unfortunately his parents are too self-absorbed with their petty scuffles to notice that their son is obviously in need of professional help. His Mother (Anne Heche) is overwhelmed by mental illness and Dad (Dallas Roberts) tries to deal with the scenario and his crumbling marriage by burrowing himself Into his work at the biology lab, but ultimately he cannot face the music and eventually leaves Jeff in the house alone. Simultaneously Jeff finds fame as a mascot of sorts from his fellow band members who find Dahmer and his uber geekiness to be a flavor of the month and exploit his oddness by highlighting him in the school yearbook by inserting him into every club photo. The screenplay is from Derf Backderfís amazing graphic novel and is based on his interactions with Dahmer when he encountered the lonely boy in high school.

Dahmer begins gaining the attention of the others by acting out in increasingly bizarre behavior such as faking epileptic fits, having a spasmic fit in the mall, alarming the other shoppers, but it is the scene where Dahmer talks a younger classmate into accompanying him to the senior prom that a different side of the character is revealed. This Dahmer is surprisingly glib, smooth talking the young girl into accompanying the misfit into a date that he clearly doesnít want, leaving her alone while he sits in the car, eating take-out food alone. Dahmerís addiction to alcohol is shown as starting in these early years and it would be something that he would become dependent upon to supply him with the courage needed to engage his future victims.

Director Marc Meyers should be congratulated on his sensible direction as his monster is all too human, an alienated teenager that is too shy and confused to understand his own sexuality, burdened with a pair of adult parents that mostly ignore their sonís unstated cries for assistance. The scene where a murderous Dahmer thinks about killing the family dog is unable to bring his own bloodlust into fruition is almost too much too bear, but thankfully the event does not occur. Dahmer also has a focused obsession with a young doctor that jogs by his house (the actual house Dahmer grew up in is used in the film) and because he doesnít know what to do with his urges, all he can do is observe from a far and fantasize. Dahmerís world is a small lonely place where his acquaintances arenít really his friends and they exploit him for the easy laughs that he supplies, but as Lynch later reveals to his so called pal Derf (Alex Wolff) that is reality, he is like everyone else. But it is by the audience knowing the fate of Dahmer and the grisly fate that is in store for him, that the true horror is revealed.

This is a sensitive film that also has a quirky sense of humor, albeit a black humor, but at its very essence are the sad facts of the strange life of Jeffrey Dahmer. I really enjoyed this film and I enthusiastically recommend it. We need to remember that at one point before the endless bloodlust and the hunting for victims, there once was a young, innocent child that was named Jeffrey Dahmer and that something went very, very wrong. The filmmakers perfectly captures the time and place before a killer stalked the streets of Milwaukee.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.40:1 HD 1080p 24/fps mastered in AVC MPEG-4 compression. The image features a sharp picture quality and the camera work is interesting, with the outdoor shots being balanced and nicely lit. There is a prevalent moodiness in the Dahmer household as if the house still echoes of its turbulent past and somehow Director of Photography Daniel Katz captures it on film.

Audio

This film is offered in both English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround mixes; the dialogue is always clear and up front. The surround sound is engaged in crowd scenes but sparingly, and the music on the soundtrack is presented more to capture the period more than anything else, mostly to reflect Derfís punk rock interests. Optional subtitles are included in English only.

Extras

The disc features an interview with actor Ross Lynch (3:06), the star speaks of how it was difficult to shake off the persona of the main character and what it was like to be filming on location in Dahmerís old residence.

"Behind-the-Scenes" slideshow are a collection of stills from the production and on location shots.

Official theatrical trailer (2:27) the actual preview for the feature.

Packaging

Packaged in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

Overall

The Film: A Video: A Audio: A Extras: B Overall: A-

 


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