By Sarah Vesely
Calm, cool, collected; curious, contemplative, capricious. Jeffrey Dahmer is a boy like many we all knew in high school: Quiet, yet bright. Serious, yet humorous, in an absurdist way. Marc Meyers’ film My Friend Dahmer gives us a glimpse into Jeffrey’s formative years, on the cusp on discovering himself on more than one level.
This coming-of-age film is reminiscent of Gus Van Sant’s Elephant (2003), in that the viewer almost feels a bit of sympathy for this inevitably malevolent character. But instead of being a true crime adaptation of the guilty pleasure, dark and disgusting criminal acts of Jeffrey Dahmer, this film takes a more psychological and contemplative approach to peeling back the layers of his life. Between the atmospheric score by Andrew Hollander (Waitress, 2007) and the calm cinematography of Daniel Katz (Funny Games, 2007), this film is a slow burn, not unlike the weak acid he uses to dissolve the flesh of his latest roadkill finds.
Ross Lynch’s performance as Dahmer is a fantastic surprise. Considering his extensive background with Disney and family-friendly films alike, this dark and introspective role could have easily been over-acted. But the way he melts into his character is as curious and meditative as Dahmer himself.
My Friend Dahmer is a wonderfully hypnotic, disturbingly compelling coming-of-age film with a poisonous twist. Like driving past an accident, only to have the firetruck block your vantage point, Dahmer’s story will leave you cautiously curious. His troubled teen years will feel distantly relatable, tugging at your teen angst heartstrings, while still subconsciously waving red flags of psychopathic warning. And like the slow, warm burn of hydrochloric acid, this foreboding film will slither under your skin, and simultaneously fascinate and disturb you.
My Friend Dahmer is screening at the UICA Movie Theater November 11 - November 21