January 21, 2003 -- "Dahmer" is a story which tries to humanize one of the strangest serial killers in history, Jeffrey Dahmer. It fails to rise much above the gruesome story on which it is based. Maybe it would have been more tasteful to have made it into a musical comedy.
Between 1978 and 1992, Dahmer killed at least 17 people. He drugged, strangled and dismembered his victims. He admitted to murder, necrophilia and cannibalism. He was eventually killed by a fellow inmate in prison in 1994. The question is, what factors led Dahmer to such outrageous behavior? That question is never really answered in the film. Instead, we get a kind of psychological profile of Dahmer during the period of time he was committing the murders. We see his desire to control others, and to have sex with dead or drugged men. This is slightly interesting in a morbid kind of way, but it is difficult to relate to.
One of the more interesting scenes in the film finds Dahmer (played by Jeremy Renner of "Senior Trip") sharing a strange romantic evening with one of his victims, Rodney (played by Artel Kayàru of "Save the Last Dance"). For some reason, known only to Dahmer, he put less drugs in Rodney's drink so that he did not pass out. The two men spend the night together playing strange games and engaging in a rambling conversation. Kayàru gives a powerful performance, as does Renner. This encounter seems to be Dahmer's attempt at something approaching a relationship with a conscious person. Ordinarily, his relationships are with the drugged, dying or the dead. Despite the attempt to illuminate the few relationships Dahmer had with the living, he remains a mystery at the end of the movie. We still don't know why he is drilling holes in people's heads.
The film tries to delve into the twisted mind of a person who had sex with dead men, butchered and ate people and drilled holes in people's heads, among other things. The movie, for the most part, avoids explicit scenes of torture, mutilation and sex, but it doesn't really reveal many insights into Dahmer's mental illness. He comes across as a guy who is just looking for love in all the wrong places. The film tries hard, but fails the tastefulness test. I feel sorry for the relatives of those who Dahmer murdered. They must feel so exploited and offended by this film. That wasn't the intent of the filmmakers, but it is the outcome of the film. This movie rates a C-.
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