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Based on real-life serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who was active
primarily in Wisconsin in the 1980s, this film focuses on a few key
episodes in Dahmer's life.
If you're at all familiar with the facts about Jeffrey Dahmer--and probably a hefty percentage of people interested in the film are familiar with Dahmer to some extent--it's difficult to watch this film without strong expectations. The problem is that under those expectations, Dahmer isn't likely to be the film you want it to be. It might work better if you're unfamiliar with the background material, but on the other hand, it might be too disjointed to work in that case. You need a familiarity with Dahmer's life to piece the film together as you watch it.
That's not to say that the film is a complete failure. In fact, I gave it a 7 out of 10. Jeremy Renner, who plays Dahmer, is fantastic. Bruce Davison, as Dahmer's father, and Artel Kayaru, as Rodney, also turn in great performances. Writer/director David Jacobson chose to make the film a psychological portrait, rather than a chronological retelling of Dahmer's misdeeds, and rather than focusing on the lurid details of the crimes. After the first 20 minutes or so, the film becomes non-sequential, and links together a number of events that provide clues (as much of a clue as we can have, at least) into Dahmer's behavior. We see Dahmer interacting with his family (primarily his grandmother and father) in a peculiar, distanced way. We see him discovering and trying to come to terms with his homosexuality in a twisted way. We see his desire for intimacy. We see actions taken by the police that would be unbelievable if we didn't know that they actually happened that way, more or less. We see him constantly drinking alcohol through most of these events. This makes up the bulk of the film. In fact, we only see Dahmer kill two humans during the course of the film, and both are relatively not graphic, and relatively quick events.
All of this was intriguing to me, but I wanted the lurid details to be explored more. Dahmer was a man who conducted experiments on his victims, trying to turn some of them into lobotomized, robot-like companions. He kept vats of acid in his apartment to dispose of body parts. He had a severed head in his refrigerator. He cannibalized victims and engaged in necrophilia. To make a film about Dahmer where these things are not explored not only downplays the severity of his crimes, but it also leaves out fairly essential aspects of Dahmer's character, if this is to be a character study. I found myself regularly checking the running time, wondering how and when Jacobson was going to get to this other material before the film had to end. And for someone unfamiliar with Dahmer, they probably would spend a lot of time trying to figure out why the film keeps jumping from one event to another, frequently going back and forth with the same events.
The bottom line is that while this film is more than worthwhile as a kind of extended footnote, a much better film about Dahmer needs to be made. Let's just hope that we can get someone as gifted in the role as Renner to be in that film.
People seem really disgusted by the film, but the only thing that disgusts
me are the negative reviews. This is a very well-made film that was put
together on a very low budget. Films like this always have the immediate
handicap of focusing not only on an evil, psychotic main character, but
focusing on an evil, psychotic main character who we all know. There
weren't too many complaints about "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (a great film)
focusing on a psychopath, but that's because Tom Ripley is a fictional
character. Like everybody, I believe that what Jeffrey Dahmer did was
wrong, and I feel sorry for all the families who lost sons and other
relatives due to him. But this movie was not made to portray him as a
nor a villain. It's meant to portray him as a person. We all know about
the crimes that Dahmer committed. But we don't know about Dahmer himself.
We don't what drove Dahmer to madness, and what led up to the subsequent
rapes, murders and eventual cannibalism. And the movie doesn't try to
us with gory details of these grisly occurrences, because that's not its
intention. There's no use showing us what we already know.
I found this biopic deeply fascinating. I learned a lot about Dahmer that I never knew previously. I can't say I relate to him that much, other than being lonely and an only child, but that didn't stop me from seeing how he was as a human being. While watching the film, I said to myself, "How come we don't learn much about his family life?" Maybe his family life had nothing to do with choosing to be that way. Not every serial killer commits murder because he was abused as a child. From the looks of things, he had a pretty well-to-do upbringing.
What I did get a sense of was his alienation and shyness. He felt his homosexuality served as a handicap in his society. And he wasn't brilliantly sociable, so he didn't have an easy time making friends or getting guys to go out with him, or have sex with him for that matter. But his perversions took him so far that he'd walk into a gay bar and slip roofies into guys' drinks (which is shown in an extended montage), take them to the back and have sex with them as they're helpless and passed out. It's interesting to find out this can happen among homosexuals as well. There's a long history of guys slipping roofies into women's drinks to get them in the sack, so Dahmer was no different from any horny heterosexual guy, only he took it many steps further.
One thing I must criticize is the use of flashbacks. When I first watched the film, I had the impression that the whole movie was about young Jeffrey Dahmer and the story was told in a linear fashion. But after watching the featurette and watching it a second time with the commentary, I realized that the movie was bouncing back and forth from Jeffrey in his later years to Jeffrey in his earlier years. I personally didn't think slapping facial hair on him made him look much older. He still looked like he was in his twenties, so I had no hint of his aging. Once I watched it a second time, the story became much more clear to me, but others watching it for the first time might get confused as well.
I liked the use of lighting. Jeffrey's room is lit completely red, giving it almost a hell-ish appearance. And towards the end, the lighting becomes much darker, as Dahmer becomes more evil.
The performances are good all-around. Jeremy Renner does an incredible job at playing Dahmer, expressing a laundry list of emotions with his face and body language alone. I kept trying to recall where I saw him before, since his face looked very familiar, and then I checked his filmography and found out he was in "National Lampoon's Senior Trip." Of course, this movie gave him a much better opportunity at showing off his acting abilities. Talented, underrated actor Bruce Davison makes a few appearances as Dahmer's father, also doing an incredible job the 10 minutes-or-so he's on screen.
Though I found the film fascinating and thought-provoking, I still wish I could've learned a little more about what drove Dahmer to madness. The director mentioned it wasn't his intention to give backstory on Dahmer's life, and instead make it an emotional drama, but it would've made the film more interesting. But one scene that caught me completely by surprise was when young Jeffrey cringing when cutting up one of his victim's bodies and eventually bursting into tears. I'm sure his remorse decreased over the years, but I don't ever visualize a serial killer feeling shame about his victims. I saw John Liszt (sp) in an interview once and he described his methods of mutilating his victims without batting an eye. So this is not exactly the movie's cue to have the audience feel sorry for Dahmer and cry along with him, but it's enlightening to find out that had emotions as well. He was just so driven by his psychological sicknesses that his emotions couldn't hinder him.
My score: 8 (out of 10)
The first time I viewed this film. I thought it was pure trash. But for
some strange reason many moons later - I watched it again. And really
liked it a lot. And that's why I recommend watching it the first time
with an open mind. And not expecting a gorefest. Myself - being a big
fan of the horror genre. Expected to see Jeffrey depicted as a
homosexual lune - carvin/sexin' up guys left and right. I mean I had
read about him some and knew there was more to him then this psycho.
But I figured a movie about him would want to focus on the killings for
shock value. Boy was I in for it. This movie doesn't focus on Jeffrey
the killer. But Jeffrey the person. And really succeeds in doing so in
my opinion. But rambling on - I want to leave reader's with this. If
you're planning to watch this movie. Please do so with an open mind -
and not expecting the stereotypical Jeffrey Dahmer. You'll be
disappointed if you don't.
By the way: I want to give some praise to writer/director David Jacobson. Very talented guy imo. I'll definitely be looking into more of his projects. Jeremy Renner as well. Really nice job portraying Dahmer on screen. Good casting choice.
Extremely well acted, particularly by the lead. Appropriately creepy and atmospheric -- as well as poignant and introspective. Makes a character out of a "monster". Examines Dahmer's struggle with his homosexuality and that struggle's basis for his sickness. Doesn't focus on the violence, and doesn't explore the cannibalism at all. Flashback structure works well. Liked the comparisions of his banal teenage years to the horrific current years. Would have liked a little bit more of an acknowledgement of how totally out of control this guy became. Cinematography is excellent at times -- but is bedeviled by some sloppy focus work. Again, the lead actor is topnotch. This is a work to be proud of.
"Dahmer" is, by and far, one of the best films I have ever seen.
Like it or not, the famous and infamous are inevitably mythologized. They become ciphers for the human dilemmas and attributes which compel them to commit the acts that grant them their notoriety. Serial killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer are no exception. For better or for ill, they take their place in the pantheon of popular culture.
How, then, to handle this? It is easy to turn a figure like Dahmer into a devil, a monster who embodies the most violent and irrational of human impulses. This, sadly, is far from productive or enlightening. It says nothing of the human condition besides the depths to which it can sink. Do we really need another film to learn this? The capacity for human evil is made more than apparent by the atrocities one encounters when reading a history book.
The makers of this film attempted something different. Dahmer becomes a sort of avatar of human loneliness, of alienation and the terrible force of sexual frustration and the wrath it inspires. We are shown a lonely man who craves the affection of others but is incapable of attaining it in the normal fashion. The Dahmer of this film employs drugs and violence to subdue those he desires and transform them into living dolls. The viewer gets the sense that, as he cuddles with the comatose body of his victim, he wants nothing more than a body beside his own as he struggles through his nightmarish sleep. Renner, the actor who portrays Dahmer in this film, says more by the contented look on his face as he holds his victims than any philosopher has ever written about the nature of the relation of Self to Other.
The acting is superb in this film. The soundtrack, especially its use of Siren's haunting "Blue Theme," does wonders to capture the type of loneliness which the makers of this film have used Dahmer to symbolize.
Most impressive, perhaps, is the use of image as narrative. There are far too many examples to cite, of course. However, one stands out clearly in my mind. Flashing back to Jeffrey's younger days, he is shown attending a party he holds at his own home. Wandering about alone, he happens upon a couple engaged in amorous play. After watching for a few moments, he leaves the home and commends himself to the night.
Unable to touch the Other, we inevitably delve deeper into the Self. "Dahmer" shows us what happens when such a descent brings us into darkness.
God help us when we finally glimpse the soul and come to the realization that it is not spirit, but an abyss.
I did hear a lot of bad buzz about this movie; mainly people were
complaining that it was boring. The movie starts out with Jeffrey
living alone in his apartment ready to kill his next victim, an Asian
boy and meeting another one at the same time, Rodney. We get many
flashbacks of when he was young and when he committed his first murder.
So was it boring? Hell No! Well for me it was never boring because from the beginning we are captivated by this lonely and troubled man. The reason behind this was due to Jeremy Renner's real and absorbing portrayal that should stand out as one of the best performances of 2002. Another reason it was never boring was because of its catchy dialogue. Jeffrey had some really though provoking things to say. The best conversations were between Jeffrey and Rodney who was played by Artel Kayaru. He was magnetic and he gave the second best performance.
People who thought that this movie was boring were probably expecting more scenes of Jeff killing all his victims. We don't see all of the crimes and that's because this film was more of a character study than a gore infested horror film. There were some creepy and disturbing scenes but nothing intensely frightening. Only one particular scene that caught me by surprise---oh,that really freaked me out. Great scene, I loved it because it didn't have any music and it was very well directed. It's really weird to feel sorry and be moved by a killer and it's the first time I ever felt that way.
"Dahmer" tries to tell one of the most horrific stories of recent years. But the whole story of Jeffrey Dahmer does not get told in this movie. There are some shocking moments, but most of the movie gets bogged down in flashbacks (and even flashbacks-within-flashbacks). At some points, you cannot tell if you're watching another flashback or the present moment in the story. Jeremy Renner plays the title character, with an adequately creepy air. Some of his ghastly crimes are shown, while the gore is kept to a minimum. And Dahmer's homosexuality is mentioned, but much of it is kept just off-camera, as evidenced by the montage of Jeffrey's date rape drug-fueled sodomy marathons. This movie does not try to present Jeffrey Dahmer as Dr. Hannibal Lecter. (How could anyone glamorize this murderer?) But I would have preferred some kind of analysis as to why he became a killer. The strange and tragic story of Jeffrey Dahmer left a lot of people sad and wanting answers. But this movie left me wanting satisfaction.
I found Dahmer to be an interesting exploration into the mind of a serial killer. Light on exposition(flashbacks aside), it allows the viewer to fill in the gaps as to Dahmer's motivation. I think Jeremy Renner did a terrific job portraying Dahmer as a soft-spoken misfit and outsider who's just looking for love. David Jacobson explores the duality of Dahmer effectively and subtlely, as when Dahmer watches people having sex with a mixture of detachment and disdain,and then seeks out his own sexual liaisons with disastrous results. He is so full of self-loathing and shame that he must first drug, then kill his victims to avoid facing the rejection he is sure will happen. When he finally meets Artel Kayaru as Rodney, he has met his alter-ego...someone carefree and uninhibited and it's apparent Dahmer is experiencing conflicting emotions and perhaps some kind of revelation. But it's too late to save him. Low on gore and violence, which was refreshing. Cinematography was first-rate. Locations were depressingly banal and middle America, settings which seem to breed the most monstrous impulses. A lowkey and worthwhile look into the results of unchecked fear rage and shame, and an invitation to explore the little Dahmer in all of us.
and not OTT serial killer film I've seen. I like the whole view of
Dahmer as a very lonely kid. On reading about him you, or rather I, get
that impression. Autophobia is a terrifying thing to suffer from and I
can see how this, in an unstable mind, could lead to what he did.
The performances were great, especially from Jeremy Renner. The camera work was superb. The blending of flash backs with real time events were smooth and stylish. the soundtrack in fact was quite good too.
We all know the outline of your average serial killer e.g broken family - killing animals - beaten by mother - go kill women etc etc. Dahmer didn't fit this, probably why he got away with it so often and probably why he's more interesting than any of the other psychopaths out there. I think you'll find it dull if you are looking for blood and gore but Dahmer wasn't one of those kind of killers, he killed for company, not blood lust.
Let's face it: people who will watch this to see violence or some of
the acts of the most notorious serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, will be
That's because the film doesn't at all emphasize in Dahmers sadism or cruelty - it's a human look into the mind of an inhuman psycho. Well, I suppose the film is trying to be objective. Not to merely shock, but then again there's too few of Dahmer's unspeakable acts, that one might wonder what the writer/director was trying to do?
Anyway, watch this if you like serial killer films, but don't expect too much. Give it a try, it's quite decent and serious film.
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