If you were expecting blood and murder, you’ll be disappointed with My Friend Dahmer. If you want to know what it was like going to high school with one of America’s most notorious serial killers, you’ll love this portrait piece graphic novel adaptation by director Marc Meyers.
My Friend Dahmer screened last week as part of BFI London Film Festival’s Cult strand and after seeing a few trailers for the film already, I knew that this film was near the top of my “must-see” list. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect going into the film. As I love films about serial killers, as opposed to the extreme torture porn horror movies that Hollywood churns out (No, I won’t be going to see Jigsaw), I knew My Friend Dahmer probably would be a fascinating, but possibly unnerving look into the life of Jeffrey Dahmer. And I pretty much got what I was expecting.
What’s it all about? I like to think My Friend Dahmer is like a High School Musical version of the story of Jeffrey Dahmer – without the all-singing, all-dancing musical parts. I know that sounds super corny, but in a way, it rings true. The film really focuses on “Jeff” and his newfound group of average friends that sort of worship him because of his unusual spaz attacks he does purely for attention at school. They form the “Jeffrey Dahmer Fan Club” and orchestrate disruptive little performances with Jeff spazzing out in public to get their high-school kicks and help heighten their own mediocre popularity. Of course what they don’t realise is that Jeff has a darkness brewing inside of him which is perpetuated by his parents marital/mental issues and his own homosexuality of which he doesn’t quite understand, all whilst drowning his dark feelings with alcohol. His extreme fascination with the “insides” of animals too begins to fester resulting in an extreme scene of Jeff mentally scaring his buddies whilst he viciously carves up and murders a poor defenceless fish. Yes folks, the fish murder scene is all to extreme.
Why is it good? Well, to be honest, it’s really fascinating to see a cinematic portrayal of Jeffrey Dahmer which isn’t drenched in a true crime narrative. Similarly to the film Dahmer in 2002 starring Jeremy Renner, My Friend Dahmer brilliantly takes on a complex and dark character and gives him a soul. The casting of R5 teen music sensation Ross Lynch was expert casting in my opinion. He perfectly embodied the troubled and terrifying character makes you understand the factors and issues that caused the young mind to “break”. I should mention too that the film was shot in the actual family home of Jeffrey Dahmer, making the realism even that much more creepy.
If anything, My Friend Dahmer could serve as a warning sign of the effects of alcoholism, depression and unattended mental health, if not taken seriously. If you love dark portraits of real-life dark killers, you have to see My Friend Dahmer. It’s probably the greatest on-screen depiction of him ever made.
My Friend Dahmer is released on on November 3rd in the US with a wider territorial release coming in 2018. Check out Phil Marriott and myself chatting about some of the films and presentations at BFI London Film Festival including My Friend Dahmer.