Movie review: My Friend Dahmer is a mild take on an intense life story

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With the death of Charles Manson lurking behind us, you’d think we would have heard enough of serial killers; that is, until Marc Meyers tossed us a Ross Lynch-meets-Jeffrey Dahmer bone that brought us back to the murder mystery party once again.

Based on the 2012 graphic novel written by John “Derf” Backderf, My Friend Dahmer twists the typical high school film into something more sinister than a Burn Book. The film is a biographical drama, following the high school and early post-graduation experience of Jeff Dahmer and the “Dahmer Fan Club”—a group of wannabe cool kids who use Jeff’s vulnerability to their advantage in the locker-lined hallways.

Marc Meyers brings us the adaptation, which initially met backlash for its presumed promotion of the life of a killer, and sought to bring viewers more than what they bargained for. After watching, Although not a hit in the box office, I would advise Meyers to check Dahmer off as a cinematic success. However, no film can succeed without flaws, as seen in My Friend Dahmer’s cinematography.

Meyers did one thing, above all, extraordinarily well; he brings audiences to a sense of discomfort, at which they reason with themselves to no other decision than to remain in their seats. A scenario that seems undesirable on paper, it gives the film have a lasting effect on the audience. Meyers gives his film a strength like few other indie (or any) films have.

Take Marvel for example–the films are entertaining, action-filled and usually humorous. We remember the characters, the jokes and the triumphant heroes; but we don’t carry elements like cinematography and score with us. The discomfort, raw emotion, costuming and the set design of Dahmer pulls on our heartstrings and embeds itself in our minds past the exit doors. That is something Meyers and his production team should consider a victory.

The film’s hamartia is, unfortunately, the cinematography. While in previous reviews cinematography has been an element to praise, My Friend just doesn’t quite reach the mark of proficiency. In a clear attempt to fit into the artsy realm of other indie blockbusters, the film falls into the category of try-hards. Blurred camera movements and poor focus throughout made the film feel like a first-person camcorder far too often for this reviewer’s liking, sometimes teetering on the tightrope of movies like The Blair Witch Project. I would like to point out, however, that the vibe of the film wasn’t all bad. All in all, My Friend Dahmer wasn’t cinematically flawless, but it was a great start in changing what viewers have as their preferred image of a biopic.

Taking into consideration its controversial subject material, My Friend Dahmer does a noteworthy job at holding its own in Hollywood, especially as a low-budget indie film. As it continues to spread across theatres all over the United States, audiences will begin to feel chilled to the bone by a Ross Lynch performance for the books, a plot without surprises but breaking new ground for biopics and a character dynamic that draws in emotions we never knew we could feel at the same time.

I recommend My Friend Dahmer for more than just the serial killer researcher; this film is for anyone who wants to understand consequences of actions, psychological turmoil or even those who just want to see a Disney star growing up before their eyes. The film has its flaws, as humans do, which is part of the reason it feels so real. A biopic for the books, I have a strong desire to see what Meyers brings us next and where Lynch’s career draws him in the future.

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1 Comment

  1. Veronica Cereceres on

    Great job Logan! You should also review Mindhunter. It’s a series on Netflix about the study and profiling of serial killers based on true events.

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