My Friend Dahmer: Film Review

I like to go into movies knowing as little as possible about them, so I rarely watch trailers and dodge plot summaries online where I can. This generally works well for me, except with My Friend Dahmer, because I didn’t realise it was about Jeffrey Dahmer‘s early life, so I spent the whole movie waiting for his killing spree to begin and felt disappointed it wasn’t about that.

Ross Lynch stars as a young Dahmer, who likes to collect roadkill and put them in jars of acid to watch them decompose and watch his doctor go for regular runs. His mother Joyce (Anne Heche) has mental health problems and his parents are always arguing, edging ever closer to divorce, and he’s a loner at school until a group of nerdy outsiders lead by John ‘Derf’ Backderf (Alex Wolff) make a fan club for him because they’re entertained by his weird, pretend seizures.

As mentioned above, I really wanted a film that delved into Dahmer’s serial killer days, but this focuses on his home and school life during his teenage years, based on a graphic novel by the real Derf about his experiences as Dahmer’s friend in the 1970s. Because of this personal link, My Friend Dahmer provides a fresh spin on the serial killer genre and sheds new light on the infamous killer, who has been portrayed on film multiple times (I just haven’t seen any of them), and doesn’t go over much old ground.

I found it very slow in places, perhaps because I was waiting for something that was never gonna come, but it was still very informative and interesting, and gives us a real insight into the makings of a serial killer. It is also very creepy in places. I was preparing for something R-rated and gruesome, given the heinous crimes he carried out, but you get little glimpses and teases of grim stuff, usually decomposing roadkill or him fantasising about dead bodies, and there is palpable tension in the air when he starts to really contemplate killing someone.

Lynch, who is best known for Disney Channel show Austin & Ally and the Teen Beach Movie franchise, is impressive as Dahmer, making him a real uncomfortable watch. He adopts his posture and walk and gave me the creeps. Wolff was fine, although his character is somewhat questionable given that he encourages Dahmer to put on his ‘spazzing out’ performances. Heche drove me mad, but I think that was the whole point.

My Friend Dahmer is not what I expected so I felt a tad let down, but it is still an intriguing watch nonetheless.

In cinemas Friday 1st June

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