VOD film review: My Friend Dahmer
Mike Williams | On 03, Jun 2018
Director: Marc Meyers
Cast: Ross Lynch, Alex Wolff, Anne Heche
It’s possible to experience My Friend Dahmer, the new feature directed by Marc Myers, in two completely different ways. One can be to go in totally blind, without a shred of knowledge about Jeffrey Dahmer and the reasons why he became an infamous figure in US history. The second is to be fully aware of his actions and view it with preconceived notions from the get-go.
If you’re viewing it from the former, like this writer, the mystery and intrigue will be ramped up to the point of being unsure what oldball teen Jeffery (played by former Disney star Ross Lynch) will do and just how far he’s willing to go with his sadistic thoughts, and how exactly he’ll put them into practice. Truthfully, it’s a pretty gigantic leap from Lynch’s days as a Disney star on Austin & Ally, having now morphed into a character unrecognisable to those accustomed to his formative years. Yet he impresses in a similar way to Zac Efron stepping from High School Musicaler to the sweaty, pulsating swamp of 2012’s The Paperboy.
The character of Jeff Dahmer is a deeply unsettling one. A young and confused teen, he struggles to fit in (not least because of his repressed sexuality), until he finds his niche of impersonating someone with mental disability to ‘impress’ the cool kids at school and anyone else out there who’ll offer him the attention he craves. At home, Jeff is shunned by his bickering parents – Lionel (Dallas Roberts) and Joyce (Anne Heche) – who are on the brink of divorce. Their constant arguments neglect their sons, including Jeff’s younger sibling, Dave (Liam Coeth), forcing the former to seek solace in his work shed of sorts where he stores and experiments with roadkill and acid.
It’s fair to say any of his abnormal tendencies aren’t solely down to his upbringing: the signs of a psychopath are all there but go unnoticed, whether in plain sight at school, when around new-found friends, or at home. In general, there’s an awkward un-PCness running through the story’s spine. Its 1970s setting and attitudes feel a million miles away from what we’d see today, other than in the most overt of satirical comedies. It works fine; it’ll merely be uncomfortable to sit through at times where millennial audiences are concerned.
The story – in case anyone was hoping for a grizzly tale of crime and murder and gore – is somewhat tame and more implicit, and it’s this ‘what if’ idea that‘s arguably the scariest theme explored.
My Friend Dahmer is something of a precursor to Dahmer’s infamy – an ‘early years’ tale of sadism and psychopathy. It encourages audiences to pick up on the very obvious, disturbing signs Jeff displays, with just enough mystery to maintain the suspense of what is a particularly chilling film based on true events.
Where to watch online in the UK:
This review was originally published in June 2018.