My Friend Dahmer Chills Audiences

by Victoria Fennell


During the Tribeca Film Festival, a new movie on one of the most well known and prolific serial killers of the 20th century, Jeffrey Dahmer, premiered.

My Friend Dahmer isn’t a true crime story about his notorious murders but a look into his past, specifically the high school years. Based on a graphic novel of the same name by Derf Backderf, My Friend Dahmer gives the viewer a glimpse into a young and troubled mind.

Dahmer was a teenager in the mid 70s who just didn’t quite fit in. He preferred solitude in his shed, dissolving roadkill in acid because he liked bones over contact with others.

Filmed in the actual childhood home of Dahmer, the film gives us a look into a tumultuous home life with a mother that showed signs of manic behavior and mental illness and a father reaching wits end.

Despite playing tennis and being in the band, Dahmer was the kid no one seemed to notice. In fact, he was the kid no one really wanted to be around. Shy and strange during any era was not the best qualities for high school popularity and friendship, so he found himself for the most part alone.

Dahmer began to act out, throwing himself on the ground and seizing to mimic an interior designer his family hired that had cerebral palsy. With his acting out and his unusual antics he found a group of quasi friends who aptly created the “Dahmer Fan Club” which in retrospect would carry a very different weight today.

While many kids in high school explored their budding sexuality, Dahmer tried to hide his. As a gay teen in the 70s he hid his orientation and took to obsessively watching and fantasizing about a jogger who ran past his house everyday. He imagined the man dead in his home and very nearly attempted to bludgeon him had he gone for his daily run that day.

To hide his feelings he became an alcoholic frequently drinking in and out of school to presumably numb some of the emotions and urges he was beginning to get.

In a fishing incident Dahmer lost control and disemboweled a fish instead of cutting it off the line to throw it back in the water because he wanted to see what its insides looked like.

Actor Ross Lynch, who played Dahmer, nailed the coldness and emotional instability that is required to commit such heinous crimes and effectively morphed from Dahmer the strange kid to Dahmer the killer.

The film ends in a familiar story, the first of many that would take place over the next 13 years.

Dahmer, driving in his car, sees a young man hitchhiking on the side of the road and picks him up. The man, Steven Hicks, gets in, agreeing to party with Dahmer and ultimately as the film ends, and as time would tell, becomes his first victim.

My Friend Dahmer gives us a view into the mind of a serial killer before he began his killing spree from the true stories of a fellow student who knew him. The film, although not a horror movie, gives the viewer a sense of foreboding as we follow Dahmer closer and closer to the man he is remembered as today.

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