Dahmer (2002)


Dahmer (2002)
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Artel Kayaru, Matt Newton, Dion Basco, Bruce Davison
Director: David Jacobson
Synopsis: Another film about one of history’s most notorious serial killers – absolutely not for the squeamish.


This particular take on the exceedingly grim life of notorious gay serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer comes almost ten years after Dahmer himself was brutally murdered by fellow prison inmates. Because of this long time factor one can at least hope that it isn’t just a cheap cash-in job like a previous film The Secret Life of Jeffrey Dahmer was and perhaps more of a study of what motivated this man to turn into the monster that he was.

The new film by David Jacobson begins with an incident during Dahmer’s killing spree, which could have saved several lives, but due to the police’s racist and careless attitude, Dahmer was allowed to continue to kill. The titles roll while we are shown Dahmer at his job at the chocolate factory – a job that provided him with the means to his ghastly ends. Dahmer smooth talks a young Vietnamese lad into posing for some pictures at his flat – Dahmer’s modus operandi which has been adequately shown in this film was to pick up young wastrels hanging around the cities bus terminals by offering them money, drugs and “a party” and then he would bring them home to apartment # 213 where he would proceed to drug them by mixing tranquillisers in their drinks.

After the victims fell asleep Dahmer would carry out his very sick sexual fantasies which ultimately involved not wanting to allow his friend to leave him and more rationally, he feared the consequences once his friend awoke, none too delighted at having been drugged and used for some demented sexual fantasy. Thus Dahmer chose the only other way out which was to turn his friends into mannequin like creatures who would still keep him company but not answer back and most importantly, not go away and leave him alone. Dahmer craved his friends to stay with him and he found that by making them into zombies he could do exactly that. However he found that the bodies would start rotting after a few days and so he would reluctantly chop the body up, keeping some body parts as mementos.

This film attempts to shed some light on Dahmer’s background and his very frail relationship with his father whom he clearly resented and felt rejected by. There are other small but important instances that the film manages to touch upon such as the time that Dahmer was fascinated by finding a spike in the field that had the skull of a dog impaled on it. It also shows us his fascination for feeling the naked torso of a mans body next to him and how he used to get off by lying in this manner fascinated by his victims heartbeat. The film also contains the incident when Dahmer was actually caught at a gay bar spiking drinks with his drugs – Huge pity that he had just been roughed up and thrown out of the club rather than being thrown to the police.

The film switches back and forth from the past to the present but the attention of the second half is mostly focussed on the last person that Dahmer was to try to kill before he was captured; a sprightly, colourful and touch effete character who managed to keep Dahmer at arms length for a surprisingly long time before finally finding out the truth behind his acquaintances strange behaviour and fleeing for his life. This film is fortunately a huge improvement on the previously mentioned film on Dahmer by Carl Crew. While that smacked on cheap sensationalism, this one at least attempts to create some pattern, some twisted logic to the killer’s motives. It doesn’t perhaps succeed in actually shedding any light on what made Dahmer tick and but then how some kid from some “average” home from middle America could turn into the thing that Dahmer became is hardly something that can be easily fathomed.

The acting in this film is far superior to the previous Dahmer film though this like its predecessor is also a cheap little production that doesn’t have any big name stars at all. Jeremy Renner does a decent job in the title role and sometimes looks chillingly like what Dahmer used to look like. Artel Kayaru is a natural as the fateful victim that got away and Bruce Davison is fairly good as Dahmer’s father. This is a reasonable effort at disentangling the thinking processes of a mind that can nurture such incredible amounts of hate and rage yet it fails in achieving any real insight into the sick mechanism of Dahmer’ brain. Maybe there are no logical or recognizable symptoms or signs in a case like that of Jeffrey Dahmer.

This movie is far from being a classic study of the mind of a deranged serial killer, yet it is a noble, fairly non-sensationalist effort and a huge improvement on the last film on the same subject (which really isn’t a great achievement considering just what a stinker the Carl Crew production was). This film really isn’t worth much of a recommendation, however if given the choice between the two films, Secret Life of Jeffrey Dahmer and this one, clearly this one would be the one to watch.