How do you make a murderer? Or in even better terms, how do you know one? Marc Meyers’ My Friend Dahmer delivers one of the most compelling and intriguing crime stories of the year with a unique and sometimes sympathetic, look at one of America’s most notorious serial killers, Jeffrey Dahmer who carried out several crimes and was known to be an introvert student with a dysfunctional family and very few friends.
Headlined by a stunning performance by Ross Lynch who totally transforms into the troubled, lonely and introvert Dahmer, the film smartly never offers a look into the actual crimes Dahmer committed in real life. In an interesting – and delicious – twist to crime and genre films, Meyers opts for a showcase of Dahmer’s high school years, showing us how and why Dahmer turned into the version everyone now knows instead of turning the film into a gory, superficial showcase of his horrific crimes.
It's a decision that works splendidly because, and that’s something many horror/crime filmmakers seem to forget or ignore, audiences need to care about the characters so they can care about the story. This is not a film that panders to its audience with a crime after the next, it rather asks them to take a leap of faith and reexamine someone who they think they knew – thanks to countless media articles – and try to understand how loneliness, exploit, troubled family history, sexual orientations and alcoholism came into play into Dahmer’s transformation.
Filmed in Dahmer’s actual home, My Friend Dahmer bravely delves into Dahmer’s troubled mind and gracefully depicting feelings of loneliness, longing, trying to fit in and – in one of the film’s best scenes – realizing it’s too late to go back on a dark road that’s already been taken. Ross inhibits the character with intensity, menace and a scary gaze that offers us a window to a tormented soul that is used by his friends as a laughing stock in even the most unimaginable and humiliating ways possible.
Verdict: One of the best films at the London Film Festival, My Friend Dahmer is a surprising and welcome addition to the crime genre and boasts a fantastic performance by Ross Lynch who elevates the film into a captivating and heartbreaking experience. A must-see.