My Friend Dahmer (2017) Poster

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7/10
A Prequel to Madness
Greg13 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
David Berkowitz. John Wayne Gacy. Ted Bundy. Ed Gein. It's fascinating how the names of some of North America's most sensationalized serial killers have their names as familiar through cross-generational age groups as George Washington, Martin Luthur King and Michael Jackson. Pop culture seems equally enamored by rampages of the more infamous multiple murderers and have dedicated innumerable television episodes, podcasts and theatrical releases to their subjects taking dramatic licenses to piece together the anatomy of a killer.

One of the more interesting films to premiere with the weight of factual atrocities associated with the title character is My Friend Dahmer which dramatizes the complex high school life of renowned serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer who was responsible for the butchering of 17 young men between 1978 and the late 1980's.

Based on the book by Derf Backderf and co-written by director Mark Meyers, My Friend Dahmer attempts to show us the events in the life of the protagonist before he began to take human lives. Former Disney alum teen idol Ross Lynch accepts the responsibility of channeling a teenaged Dahmer through the events of his life that would eventually culminate in the carnage associated with the name. Lynch embodies Dahmer as a loner with shrugged shoulders who meanders through his relative non-existence at both school and at home. With no friends and a family engorged on their own turmoil, Dahmer finds exultant refuge in a small shack in the woods by the family home where he experiments with dead animals soaked in acid. Dahmer does not hide his fascination with dead animal bones and his passion for the macabre would eventually lead his father (Dallas Roberts) to destroy his son's secret sanctuary.

Meanwhile, at school, Dahmer becomes a casual teen celebrity among the halls when he begins acting out in relative random outbursts. The outbreaks of mania result in a bonding with three classmates that champion Dahmer's ambition for attention and exploit his mannerisms for childish euphoria.

Being accepted as part of a group does little to slow the progression into madness that eventually ensues. As the marriage between Dahmer's parents dissolves we witness the unhinged neuroses of his mother played wonderfully by Anne Heche. Her manic attention to only herself fuels Dahmer to begin drinking and it's the alcohol fueled mindset that propels Dahmer to progress into darkness.

My Friend Dahmer concludes with the connection to Steven Hicks, a young hitchhiker who would become Dahmer's first victim. We watch as Hicks and Dahmer drive off but only a title card reveals Hicks' ultimate fate.

It is this restraint that separates My Friend Dahmer from its peers. Director Marc Meyers weaves us through a story that doesn't humanize the man who would become Milwaukee's most prolific cannibal. Nor does the film sensationalize the events to which Dahmer is associated. Instead, My Friend Dahmer focuses on what life offered a quiet outcast without any violent behaviors leading up to his first submitted impulse of murder.

And it's this glimpse into a young man's troubled past that propels My Friend Dahmer towards our strong film recommendation. The cast surrounding Dahmer's coming-of-age are exceptional. In particular young Alex Wolff who as Dahmer's best friend becomes a participant in a profile that would eventually result in horrific consequences.

Marc Meyers and his crew are able to flawlessly project the year 1978 around the characters. From the costume designs to the cars and music, the look and feel of 1978 is authentic. The references to the era may be subtle, but they are effective establishing the setting.

The challenge of making a serial killer movie interesting before the killer takes a life must have been daunting. But Mac Meyers maneuvers through the rapids determined to give backdrop to our subject. There are flaws. The film takes only a shallow toe dip into the homosexuality pool we now know Dahmer would eventually bathe. But the film doesn't try to sensationalize anything. It stays the course and easily becomes one of the better serial killer prequels ever made.
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9/10
Somewhat slow but powerful all the same, and full of brilliant performances
Larry-11520 November 2017
I'm a fan of Derf's graphic novel about his teen experiences in the late '70s with Jeff Dahmer -- as a result I had mixed feelings about a film version. On the one hand, I was excited, but on the other was quite curious how the relatively brief story could be turned into a feature length film.

In terms of storytelling, the movie works. Yes, as a reader of the graphic novel may have suspected, the pace ends up being a bit slow, but it's still compelling stuff -- the viewer is there just as Dahmer arrives at a fork in the road of his life. Which way will he take? Will he end up just being an eccentric, or will he take that other, infinitely darker road?

We all know the answer, and of course the movie has a strong tragic element to it. It's all the more tragic -- for Dahmer's victims and their families, but also for Dahmer himself -- when we see that there was just enough to the guy ... just enough potential ... to make him possibly go the other way.

At times watching the movie can be tough going, but not for the reasons you might think. Watching a kid as painfully awkward and then as deeply depressed as Dahmer go through the torture of Middle American high school can be truly excruciating, all the more so because it seems to be happening in slow motion, like watching a car crash. But make no mistake -- it is absorbing human drama, quite unique in our age of comic book heroes and lurid reality TV.

Even if you don't particularly like slow-burn drama, see the movie anyway, for the performances. Lynch doesn't say a lot but he's truly engrossing to watch. Anne Heche is virtually unrecognizable as Dahmer's mother skating along the lip of sanity -- her manic performance is brilliant and unforgettable. And as usual Dallas Roberts impresses as Dahmer's father.

Highly recommended -- but don't go expecting a serial killer flick.
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5/10
We Praise the Unusual
thirtyfivestories24 November 2017
The Midwest is incubating a monster, and he's in every club photo. A slouched posture and taboo interests define the young Dahmer. Roadkill is his closest companion, and acids are his most trusted tools. A hunger for dark meat and classmate laughs, he stages spasms to build his brand.

John has watched Dahmer with a talent scout's eye, and he sees great potential. founding the Jeff Dahmer Fan Club, John perpetuates Dahmer's lewd antics. John aspires to illustrate comics one day, and chooses Dahmer as his flagship endeavor, utilizing the awkward gold that the future killer exudes.

Fishing twists into sinister explorations when Jeff reels a creature in, and animal traps feed a vacuous curiosity for the misplaced biologist. With a mother clawing into the household's fabric, and a lame duck father, Jeff loves both far too much and crumbles under the failings of his bearers.

A hunter in training without a trainer, Jeff is sloppy and overt. He spooks his first victims and broadcasts his desires in horn-rimmed eyes. Alcohol becomes the tether to reality, enabling him to traverse even the murkiest social waters. Jeff has no mentor for the science he wishes to pursue.

Meyers fails to unearth the psychology of criminal innovation. Relying heavily on pre-established lore and fanfare, nothing appears on the screen that shocks or entices further study. The cookie cutter high school friend plot might be factual, but it makes for an uninteresting lens on a rather interesting individual. No motive rises to the surface, and no transformation commands the trajectory of Dahmer's descent into homoerotic blood bathing.
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6/10
Pretty good. Actually it was more OK
subxerogravity19 November 2017
The understanding of what may have been going through Jeffery Dahmer's head and made him what he is.

No sparks flew from the screen as I watched the film. At first its slow temple was interesting,but the movie got less interesting as time past. By the end I was dozing off like it lost me.

The life of Dahmer was petty normal if you really thing about it. I think that's the point of the movie and it made their point a little too clear.

I got to the point and nothing much more.

http://cinemagardens.com
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8/10
SPAZ
hipCRANK13 December 2017
Not a comedy. I repeat, this is not a comedy.

Also of note for the squeamish set: no serial killing here, just the seemingly mundane life of a high school misfit. Jeffery Dahmer is a mopey, four-eyed moptop, shuffling through adolescence, dealing with a fractious household in the bland and brown seventies.

Of course we all know how this plays out, and that ominous shadow creates a vicious tension throughout this excellently unsettling film. Collecting and dissolving road kill in his makeshift shed lab, is certainly cause for concern, but it is Dahmer's awkward interactions with his peers, family, and authority figures, that bring the shivers. We know there is an explosion coming, but we just don't know how or when.

Based on a graphic novel by a high school chum, "My Friend Dahmer" focuses on the usual tribulations of teenagers searching to belong. Either bullied (nasty) or ignored (worse), Dahmer gains a strange semblance of attention by spazzing out in school. If fake epileptic convulsions means popularity, then so be it.

Former Disney star Ross Lynch brings a perfect blend of desperation and dread to the complicated lead. He has issues, but what outcast teen doesn't? Among his many quirks, Dahmer's seemingly innocuous interest in a neighbourhood jogger (a running theme throughout) is one hell of a creepy sequence, even though nothing comes of it. We see a series of small events that may point to the evolution of a monster, or to a weirdo biology major. There's a fork in this road!

This all foreplay movie succeeds brilliantly because it plays the audience, who for once, are itching to spoil the ending.
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