Dahmer

Dahmer

It goes without saying that any biopic about one of the twentieth century's most notorious serial killers, homosexual necrophiliac cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, is going to wind up being pretty disturbing. But writer/director Jacobson's quiet, low-budget account takes the high road, avoiding both movie-of-the-week melodrama and Jason-style exploitation by focusing on a couple of nights near the end of Dahmer's final killing spree, as the lonely psychopath flashes back on his collected memories from the time of his first murder, at 18, to what he has become, mere weeks before his arrest.

There is some blood, but thankfully none of the graphic mutilations or flesh-eating that Dahmer is best remembered for. The story does take liberties with certain facts, but focuses on the three most noteworthy aspects of the killer's career: that first murder, one of the only killings (out of 16 or 17) that he felt remorse for; the horrifying truth that one of his victims managed to escape, even being discovered by police, but was returned to Dahmer's apartment by said police (only to be murdered minutes later); and the one potential victim who did escape, inexplicably unharmed.

As the eponymous murderer, Jeremy Renner looks a bit more like Tobey Maguire than he does Jeffrey Dahmer, but he puts in a credible, low-key performance. In fact, it's a great performance, possibly even a star-making one. And although Dahmer the movie sheds little light on the hows and whys behind Dahmer the person (though there is a suggestion that his violent tendencies arose from his own internalized homophobia), remaining as aloof as its subject (who it does not condemn), it nevertheless chills. However, it's clearly been a challenge for it to find its audience: macho fans of the serial killer subgenre may be, ironically, grossed out by the film's homoerotic content, whereas supporters of "Queer Cinema" who feel there aren't enough positive gay characters represented in film are definitely keeping this out of their festivals. Who can blame them? I can't imagine a worse role model for the gay community. Still, if you're curious, it is a fascinating film, well-told and well-acted.