Review: ‘My Friend Dahmer’ is worth seeing
High school movies and television shows these days all include one thing: an awkward learning period.
“My Friend Dahmer” has this as well, except when the main character graduates, he does not throw his cap to the wind and start packing for college; he becomes a serial killer.
“My Friend Dahmer” tells the story of the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer in his earlier years. Dahmer is known for the gruesome rape, murder and dismemberment of 17 men and boys between the years of 1978 and 1991.
Going into this movie, I knew very little about Jeffrey Dahmer. I probably had heard the name a couple of times on an episode of “Criminal Minds,” but I never spent a Sunday afternoon doing a bit of light reading on cannibals. One thing is for sure, I did not expect the next two hours to be very pleasant.
Dahmer, played by Ross Lynch, is portrayed as an unbearably-awkward teenager in high school.
If the film were a documentary about the time of his killings, I probably would not have even bothered to watch it, but the fact that it is about the years before the killings was intriguing.
Lynch, a former Disney Channel star, ditched his usual sprightly characters to play the confused and gawky teenage Dahmer, and he is both terrifying and mesmerizing.
Lynch got everything down – from the hunched stance to the creepy and vacant expression.
He had few lines, because Dahmer was not a man of many words, but just his presence and scarily similar appearance to the real Dahmer made both the characters and the audience feel uncomfortable.
The movie focuses on Dahmer’s life at home and in high school.
In school, Dahmer is an outcast but luckily meets a group of friends. One of those friends is Derf Backderf, the creator of the graphic novel on which this film is based.
Backderf, played by Alex Wolff, and his friends view Dahmer as a toy or a spectacle to take advantage of rather than as a friend.
Although it is clear that Dahmer had a rough experience in high school, it seemed like his school struggles had little to no correlation with his becoming a serial killer later on in life. It is almost as if the high school storyline was not even needed, since it was not essential to the “awkward teenager” theme of the movie.
His later actions correlate more with his home life. Dahmer’s parents, Lionel and Joyce Dahmer, were constantly fighting at home and eventually got a divorce.
Even though Lynch remains expressionless throughout the fighting depicted in the movie, it is clear that the mother’s addictions and father’s constant disapproval took a mental toll on Dahmer himself.
Another one of Dahmer’s internal struggles was with his sexuality. It has been said in the case that one of the reasons Dahmer resorted to killing was because he could not face the fact that he was gay.
This is evident in the way Dahmer stalks a local man who jogs by on a specific day and time.
The movie makes Dahmer’s desires look like normal, adolescent exploration, but also makes it obvious that it is, and will be, one of his deepest struggles.
The most obvious clue to his eventual murders is his fascination with the insides of animals.
He is always looking for roadkill and sometimes kills his own animals. In fact, he has a backyard shed where he dissolves dead animals in the acid he takes from his chemist father. He then examines the animals’ leftover bones.
There are some scenes that are extremely disturbing in this movie. I almost walked right out of the theater during a scene that involved the near death of a golden retriever. (Don’t worry, the dog is okay.)
Only a guy like Dahmer would thoroughly enjoy this movie for every scene. Nevertheless, it doesn’t take a Dahmer to appreciate this movie for what it was: a look inside the mind of a struggling teenager.
This particular teenager just expressed himself in the form of horrific acts.
The film, creepily yet geniusly, ends with Dahmer meeting his very first victim.
I would not recommend this movie to anyone who is sensitive to the general topic of serial killers. I would, however, recommend this movie to anyone interested in seeing in a different perspective, and a chilling one at that.