Any biopic about one of the twentieth century's most notorious serial killers, homosexual necrophiliac cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, is going to be disturbing. But writer/director Jacobson's quiet, low-budget account takes the high road, avoiding both movie-of-the-week melodrama and slasher 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 life from his first murder, at 18, to the monster he has become.
There is some blood, but thankfully none of the graphic mutilations or flesh-eating that Dahmer is remembered for. Taking liberties with certain facts, the story focuses on three noteworthy moments in 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, only to be returned to Dahmer's apartment by the police, and murdered minutes later; and the one victim who made it out alive and unharmed.
As the eponymous murderer, Jeremy Renner looks more like Tobey Maguire than 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 Dahmer the person (though it suggests that his violent tendencies arose from his own internalized homophobia), remaining as aloof as its subject, it nevertheless chills.
It's clearly been a challenge for the film to find its audience: macho fans of the serial killer subgenre may ironically be grossed out by the film's homoerotic content, whereas supporters of "Queer Cinema" who feel there aren't enough positive gay characters in film are keeping this out of their festivals. Who can blame them? I can't imagine a worse role model for the gay community than Jeffrey Dahmer. Still, if you're curious, it is a fascinating film, well-told and well-acted.