Yet another film from my binge week in Portland. This one I saw with my friend and fellow movie fanatic, Rachel.
PLOT- Based John Backderf's memoir and graphic novel, My Friend Dahmer explores his high school friendship with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
LIKE- Imagine if the kid that you befriended in high school ends up being a serial killer? This happened to Backderf, who in high school developed a friendship with Dahmer. My Friend Dahmer isn't told strictly told though Backderf's (Alex Wolff) perspective, as it also shows pieces of Dahmer's (Ross Lynch) home life and private activities, that Backderf couldn't have known. It shows Dahmer's fascination with anatomy, including a shed where he experiments on roadkill, using chemicals that his father gives to him, to strip away flesh.
Dahmer is definitely portrayed as a kid on the outside, a teenager who doesn't fit in. His friends and parents are somewhat concerned about his fascination with dead things and the shed, but seem to brush it off as an eccentric hobby. What's interesting is how he is treated among his peers. According to Backderf's version, a small group of guys, including Backderf, attempted to include Dahmer in their circle of friends, but he was always on the periphery. One way that Dahmer attempted to fit in was by joining in on a prank, where he would pretend to have spasms in a public place, like a shopping mall. The other guys would watch the reactions and laugh. It's hard to tell if they are actually including him or really just mocking Dahmer. The impression that I got, was Dahmer went along with it, knowing that he was the joke. It may seem impossible to have sympathy for a would-be serial killer, but in these scenes, he was just a kid trying to fit in.
Dahmer even attended his senior prom, asking classmate Bridget ( Sydney Jane Meyer) to be his date. This was awkward all around, and if you go online, you can see the real prom photos and interviews with the real Bridget. Can you imagine learning that your high school prom date turned out to be a serial killer? The best part of My Friend Dahmer is this idea that someone you know, someone you grew up with, can turn out to be a monster?
Speaking of being a monster, the film doesn't spend much time on trying to pinpoint what made Dahmer a serial killer. His home life is a little messy, and his mother is medicated for mental issues. His parents divorced when was almost an adult and they are extra protective of his younger brother, David. Dahmer was known to have an alcohol problem, openly drinking in high school. All of this is shown, but really they are issues that many people deal with in their lives. I read that Dahmer never blamed his parents or how they raised him. Which of course makes this even more chilling. Dahmer is shown to be someone who is deeply disturbed, but also quite ordinary. How does one make the leap to serial killer? My Friend Dahmer doesn't have the answers, but it is a fascinating look at one of the most infamous serial killers in history.
DISLIKE- The pacing was sluggish and I found my mind wandering.
RECOMMEND- Maybe. My Friend Dahmer is a good pick if you're interested in the subject matter. It's definitely more of a rental, rather than a movie that you need to see in theaters.