My Friend Dahmer

My Friend Dahmer

Director: Marc Meyers
Running Time: 107 minutes

This film had its final screening at The Nightlight on December 3, 2017.

My Friend Dahmer is a humanizing dissection of teen psychosis.

A year in the life of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer back when he was a misunderstood high school kid. To be sure, the dementia the movie shows us is totally in its embryonic form. Jeffrey, at 17, likes to take roadkill and dissolve it in jars of acid he gets from his chemist father, and his surly blank stare gives new meaning to the term “teenage outcast.” Yet My Friend Dahmer, adapted from a true-life graphic novel by John Backderf (who based it on his own high-school experiences with Dahmer), is more than a twisted Afterschool Special. It’s a serious and audacious attempt to dramatize the inner life of a sick puppy when he wasn’t quite so sick.

As you watch the movie, its central idea, that Jeffrey Dahmer wasn’t just born, he was made; that he started off as an actual human being, has a shocking validity that never undercuts the extremity of his crimes. My Friend Dahmer is disturbingly compelling and original, and with the right handling it could prove a specialty-market sensation. After Bates Motel and Hannibal, mainstream audiences are edgier now, and they’re more than ready for a movie that looks into the dark heart of the adolescent abyss.

The casting of Disney star Ross Lynch as Dahmer sounds like a stunt, but it works for several reasons. Lynch, in aviator frames, with a shaggy coif, actually looks remarkably the way Dahmer did in 1978, and he acts with a spooked gravity — his face frozen, as if he were literally afraid to smile — that’s highly suggestive of unformed inner demons. Lynch, as surely as Jeremy Renner 15 years ago in Dahmer (the movie that put him on the map), has fearlessly thought and felt his way into this role.

~~ Owen Gleiberman,