Movie Reviews 164 – Dahmer (2002)

3 Pack Killer DVD SetThis is the final installment in my series of reviews for the Killer 3 DVD Pack which features movies for three of the biggest serial killers in US history, Ed Gein, John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer.

Dahmer (2002)

DahmerDefinitely the weakest movie in this serial killer triple DVD pack, the people who put “Dahmer” together managed the impossible; make a movie about an infamous serial killer boring.

While the other two movies, Ed Gein and Gacy, strived to get as much information on the actual crimes committed (not necessarily re-enacting the events) so that the full scope of their villainy can be grasped, this depiction of Dahmer only scratches the surface.

While the real life Dahmer raped, killed and even cannibalized some seventeen odd young men, after watching this movie you got the sense that he was only responsible for a few killings and with the exception of one gruesome artifact (a head he kept in his room while living with his grandmother), a run of the mill killer at that. Well, as ‘run of the mill’ as you can be for a killer anyway. This is as desensitized a movie as you can make for a serial killer. The real crime here is how the movie makers decided to focus on a few inane events and relationships while completely ignoring so many aspects of Dahmer’s past and psyche you wonder how much was researched at all.

Aside from the problem of great omissions (especially the acts of cannibalism), the movie suffers from a lot of unexplained scenes. I mentioned that there was a scene in which we learn that Dahmer had kept a severed head in a box. Much fanfare is made when Dahmer’s father nearly opens the box and Jeffrey has to make up excuses quickly so that he can have a few moments to hide the head. But aside from that scene we don’t know anything about how he managed to have the head in the first place. While obviously a victim of his, we never learn anything else. This muddled message is due in part to any big problem with this movie, the use of flashbacks and jumps in time periods Dahmer’s life. Used effectively in many movies like this (the other movies in this very DVD pack being examples of how to do it right), here the use of flashbacks just provide more incomplete and ‘unfinished’ glimpses into his past. While the flashbacks emphasize one particular victim of his, a hitchhiker he picked up and brought home for a drinking binge, other flashbacks to his gay bar visits are only confusing in that they are only utilized to show how he started infusing drugs in drinks to render his victims groggy or knock them out entirely.

The biggest chunk of the movie is centered on one particular relationship he developed with a young man helping out at the cash register at a firearms store Dahmer was shopping at one day. This relationship is explored throughout most of the movie with the many visits the man makes to Dahmer’s apartment. But in the end, the guy just seems to leave around the time Dahmer finally gets busted at which point the film just ends. Another major annoyance is repeatedly seeing a dead body in one of Dahmer’s bedrooms for a period of time. He looks like someone Dahmer met and drugged at one of his gay bar visits, but we’re never really sure.

So much of Dahmer’s known life are never touched upon (e.g. childhood obsession with animal carcases, impaling dogs head, alcohol abuse as schooler, pranks, etc). If you want just an inkling of Dahmer, this movie may fit the bill, but even as such,  just barely. The definitive movie on his life and crimes has yet to be made.

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